Friday, April 29, 2011

Our Scarlett

Introducing the newest member of the Culbertson family...Scarlett...

Once you hear the story of how we adopted her, I think you'll agree with me that Scarlett was a special gift from God just for our family...for years, I have DREAMED of owning a chocolate lab, but never pursued owning one because I worked all day or lived in a small space, so it just wasn't suitable for a lab.

To preface the story, I NEVER look on the the CAP (an animal shelter here in Houston) website, but on a whim, decided to browse the pictures two Fridays ago. I saw Scarlett's picture on there, and read the write-up that she had been found running along a highway (similar to how our other dog, Jack, was found), and she was in the care of a foster mom. I emailed the foster mom, and we ended up talking on the phone for nearly an hour.

The foster mom, PJ, is a big-time animal lover, and she nursed Scarlett back to health for over a week at the animal hospital, then because she was unable to keep her because she fosters other dogs, she has paid for Scarlett to stay at a really nice open kennel for many months while she looked for a home. PJ said she had been dreaming to find a family like ours - a stay-at-home mom with young kids.

Last weekend, PJ brought Scarlett by to meet us, and she was just as sweet as she is beautiful. She is a smaller lab, only about 50 pounds, and doesn't seem nearly as overwhelming as some labs I know. We all felt the meeting had gone well, but PJ just wanted to talk to some trainers to find out if they could help her with some of her rambunctious behaviors.

Since Scarlett had not lived with a family, PJ agreed to personally pay for an intensive training with a renowned trainer here in Houston. This past week, she went through that training, then the trainer himself came to our house this morning and gave us a firehose training on what to do. A bit overwhelmed, and feeling like we had just brought home a newborn, we began our first day alone with Scarlett.

One of the biggest areas the trainer worked with was teaching her to stay in her kennel and how to walk better on a leash. I wish this guy could move in with us for a while, but even today after just spending a few days with him, her behavior was much better and the tips he gave us are definitely working so far. It reminds me of when we put the girls on a schedule in the hospital - they got them started, then all we had to do was just continue the work once we got home. We are keeping her on a lead at all times right now until she learns to completely control herself, but it will pay off soon enough.

She just wants a home to be loved and cherished, and the fact that she came to us with superlative training (which we didn't have to pay for), and we found out that she was born the same month as the girls, made us want her to be part of the Culbertson family!

The girls already LOVE her and aren't scared of her size at all. Her kennel is in our den, so she'll be part of the action right now while she's being trained.

Already today, she laid down right in front of them and then just licked their hands when they reached out to pet her. She seems to love them as much as they love her!

I'm a big fan of adopting dogs and saving a life; I know that we didn't find Scarlett - she found us and will be a wonderful pet in our family for many years to come.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our First Easter Egg Hunt!

Braving the heat (why is it so hot and it's only April?) and the wind, we set out today for our very first Easter egg hunt! The girls put on their little sundresses and got their Easter baskets all ready, excited to find some eggs and candy! Caroline can't wait to get started, and practices by putting her duckie into her basket:

Claire is ready to go!

We got to the church early to help set up (basically toss thousands of eggs onto a grassy area), so the girls got a few eggs early since they were big helpers!

Claire never knew Easter egg hunting could be so much fun!

She knew to tuck that egg into her basket.

Having some snacks and hanging out with Daddy!

Caroline just takes it all in...

She kept standing alone all by herself. I don't know when she figured out how to do that, but this morning was the first time she did it!

One egg for each hand! My little Easter darling...

Showing the girls how to put the eggs in their this time, it was getting pretty warm and they were tired from sitting out there for over an hour while we set up, so they quickly lost interest in the egg hunt and just wanted to sit down.

All the eggs were gone in under five minutes! I've never seen so many kiddos under age two move that quickly and make thousands of eggs disappear. We made off with about 5 eggs, but it was a good start for their first hunt! Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Some "Good Friday" Fun

Today we are remembering "Good Friday" and all the blessings we have. Paul is off today, so we had a good time playing this morning with Daddy. Yesterday, we played at a church friend's house, and her little girls are 3 and 2, and they had these little bouncy balls that the girls loved. When I see a toy that they really latch onto, I go on a hunt for it! They won't watch TV at all, so I don't get much of a break during the day other than naptime.

Thanks to Target, we found some mini bouncy balls that the girls could pick up really easily and they love them! Claire especially loves hers; she carries it around with her and was laying her head on top of it all afternoon yesterday.

She even played catch with me yesterday, and rolled the ball to me on the floor - she's a quick learner! This is her "squinty" pose because she saw the flash going off.

Caroline loves her books - I think it's the action of getting them off the shelf that she enjoys most, but she'll just sit in a huge pile of books and chatter to herself for a while. She is also obsessed with this little duck that our aunt gave her - it's just a little beanie baby, but I think because it fits into her hand perfectly, she loves it! She carries it around with her everywhere, but the benefit is that now that we've said, "Duckie" so much, she can now point at a picture of a duck in the book and say, "Duckie!"

Just like her mommy - reading several books at one time!

My little Easter duckie - sweet Caroline!

Tomorrow morning is our big Easter egg hunt at our church, so more pictures to come!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Slowly but Surely

Claire is quickly making her way around the house now - albeit holding onto the walls, but now, when I come back downstairs, she is standing at the staircase waiting for me.

She hates sitting, and will fuss until she can get to a wall or anything to pull herself up and stand. Today, she walked all the way from the staircase across the wall nearly into the kitchen. She reminds me of myself when I go ice skating - I make progress, but I have to cling to the wall the whole time!

Claire's characteristic trait is reaching towards anything and questioning, "Thaaat?" Her voice rises up the scale and she wants to know what "that" is. She often calls me "that," but I'm not offended. Lately, she has been using "mama" or "mommy, mommy," but she has yet to say it to my face after not seeing me for a while, so I'm not convinced she completely knows my name yet like she does Daddy's.
The rest of my day ended with our dog Jack pooping in the house (as if I don't clean up enough poop already), and Caroline helped herself to a piece for further examination. In the meantime, while trying to change Claire, I had to leave her there to wash Caroline's hands, and she crawled off without a diaper and peed on the floor. Good times here at the zoo!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Springtime in Dallas

This weekend, we ventured up to Dallas to visit Paul's brother and sister-in-law, Ross and Jenny! We left late in the afternoon on Friday, arriving there around 9pm. On Saturday after lunch, we all packed up and headed to the Dallas Arboretum to enjoy the beautiful flowers and weather. It was perfect California weather - about 73 degrees, no humidity, and the flowers and scenery were just gorgeous - everything perfectly manicured, in bloom, and full of color. It was such a beautiful place that there were actually 2 weddings being held, as well as numerous photography sessions for children, engaged couples, and young kids. My favorite place was this large wooden trellis that had huge pink floral vines draping all across and down its pillars - absolutely stunning! The girls loved the grass- the short Bermuda grass was like a green carpet to them. Claire is getting so close to walking - she stood for a while on her own, and then...
Took two steps all by herself! Her confidence is gradually building, but it just takes time.

Claire loves to "run" with Daddy!
The girls loved the fountain! Caroline wanted to jump in and kept leaning over to touch the water.

Taking a break and having a snack!

This was one of my favorites...Claire made sure Daddy got a snack too. She got this intently serious look on her face and figured out that he must be hungry too.

So being the sweet sharing girl that she is, she reached in and grabbed a few Cheerios, and...

Made sure Daddy got plenty to eat! She took her job very seriously and we were all cracking up, but she didn't get distracted at all from her sharing.

On our way out, we took another little break in front of some large azalea bushes.

The girls did really well in the stroller, mostly because we were outdoors! They had a great time at the arboretum and we did too! We are thankful to have such sweet relatives to host us and show us a fabulous time in Dallas!

Friday, April 15, 2011

15 Months Old!

Yesterday, we visited the doctor for the girls' 15 month wellness checkup. Daddy came along and helped, and I'm so glad he did! Usually Aunt Cassie would help, but she's busy now with her own baby Emma! With two, the visit lasted nearly an hour and a half, and I love that our doctor spends so much time talking with us and answering all of our questions. She has 3 kids of her own, so she's right there with us! A few highlights from the visit, included their weight coming in at: Claire: 21 lbs, 0 oz. Caroline: 20 lbs, 15 oz. So, just one ounce apart...pretty much their entire life has been that way, no more than about 3 ounces away from each other. They are both right around 30 inches as well (we had to remeasure a few times, so I'm not totally sure the exact number they wrote in their charts). Again, more indications that they are identical...right now, we are not paying $200 for a DNA test to find out for sure. We can always do that later. We talked about sweet Caroline's inclination to swat Claire and how to help her realize this is not how to show love to her sister. She is also going to "nap boot camp," and Mommy is going to let her cry it out and not randomly pick her up because that is just reinforcing her behavior. I love our doctor and all the research she knows!
Both girls are doing well, and I'm excited because this is the last visit for a while where they got three shots all at one time. That was not too fun for any of us!

Next visit...18 months!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Yesterday, it was time to get the girls all dressed up in their swimsuits and head outside for some sprinkler/baby pool time! The water turned out to be a little colder than I thought it would be, so it was a short-lived session. Caroline isn't too excited about having to pose in her bathing suit: Claire was fascinated by the sprinkler...when it was off, of course. (See below)
If you can't tell from the picture, Caroline is loving the water, but Claire is all curled up and screaming. She loves bathtime and splashing, so I'm not sure if it was the temperature of the water or the actual sprinkler itself. It might be a long summer!

Caroline wanted to just jump in if she could!

Notice Claire isn't in the baby pool - yes, she thought it was too cold and screamed until I got her out. Caroline still splashed around and had some fun!

I guess we'll wait another few weeks for the water to warm up a little more before trying again! We have a bigger baby pool that will fit both of them a lot better and has water shooting across it, so hopefully Claire will get over her sprinkler phobia soon!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Cousin Time!

Earlier this week, we got all the cousins together to play. The girls have been around their cousin Emma about 2-3 other times, but haven't really seemed to notice her too much, maybe because she was asleep or in the swing. This time, however, they watched her constantly, and any noise she made, they looked over at her to make sure she was okay. They were very sweet with her and didn't even try to touch her - they were just happy to watch her! Caroline, in particular, seemed really interested in Emma and kind of positioned herself right next to her like a little guardian. Both girls peered in at sweet Emma!
Caroline could have spent all day watching Emma.

I'll just hold onto her seat so she won't blow away!

Claire kept wanting to move the handle on the infant seat.

Now that's a lot of babies!!! At one point, I was holding Emma, Claire crawled into my lap, Caroline laid her head on my knee, and Jack (the dog) rubbed on the side of my leg. It was like having 4 babies at once!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuckered Out

Lately, both Mommy and Claire have been tuckered out. Why? Well, Claire has decided to start sleeping in a semi-sitting position, then she cries because she wants to lie back down. She is perfectly capable of lying down herself, but somehow she forgets this at two in the morning. In addition to waking up several times in the night, she now wakes up around 6:30am and just whines, and I go in there to find her sitting up in her crib, ready to start the day. Problem is, Mommy is not ready to start her day, so I usually just try to hold her for at least 30 minutes until it's 7am. The other day, I just prayed at 6:25am that she would sleep until 7am so I could just rest in bed, and thankfully, she began whining right at 7:01am. As if this wasn't enough to make her tired, she also isn't napping very well - maybe an hour here or there. Yesterday, it finally caught up with her, and after putting some clothes away in the closet, I came back out to the playroom to find Claire like this: She had fallen asleep right in the middle of playing, on top of her favorite learning puppy. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and she was good to go. She actually slept like that for more than 30 minutes, giving Mommy a nice little break (at least from one, since Caroline was awake of course). Today, she's napping a solid two hours, first time in a week, so I'm actually having some time to update my blog and check email! Of course Caroline slept only an hour, so I'm still waiting for the day when I can have a solid two hours to myself. Maybe next year!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Where's your Head?

This last week, somehow I figured out that Claire could point out her head. I guess it was when all the trauma happened that maybe it clicked where her head was located. Sometimes when I ask her where her nose is, she puts her hand on her head. Either way, she's doing really well and tries so hard to walk on her own. It's a constant battle because I'm more cautious with her since she is operating with a skull fracture, but I don't want to baby her and fuss too much when she falls. She lets go of things all the time now and thinks she can just start walking off on her own. The other day I was out of the room a second and went in to find her lying on top of Caroline, both crying because apparently a domino effect had happened when I stepped out for a second. She loves sitting up in her crib now and I find her in there laughing a lot early in the morning or during nap time. She grabs her dolly now and calls her "Da," and she says, "Daddy" a lot as well. Not sure where the "Mommy" figures in, but we're working on it. She's independent and carefree, but she has a sweet personality and doesn't seem to get ruffled easily. Caroline will swat at her and push on her and she doesn't really get too bothered, which is a blessing. She seems just very happy and easygoing, but at the same time, can have a will of her own. She's my sunshine and smiles a lot; she makes me laugh because she is goofy and sweet at the same time. She loves to clap and sing and discover all things new. Caroline, too, has discovered her head and also loves showing her tummy. They have both learned that word this week as well. She shrieks in excitement when we go to the park and she sees the swingset and other kids and loves to watch people. She does this little dance where she rotates her hands and feet in double time to show she is happy or excited.
She's got a little mischievous streak - she has always been the "toy snatcher" and if Claire has something she wants, she thinks nothing of scooting right on over and snatching it from her. We've been working on that a little bit, and she's eager to please and really tries to control her little habit. She knows when she is misbehaving and often looks at me with this little grin before I have to even correct her. She constantly chatters to herself in this little high-pitched voice, and says, "That" a lot and points to objects.

Both girls seem like they are getting along more and more each day, and love to make each other laugh, so that in turn makes me laugh. This age is probably my favorite so far, and I'm sure it only gets better!