Monday, March 31, 2014

Zoo Adventure

As previously mentioned, we opted out of having a big birthday party for Andrew this year and instead decided to have a family adventure day at the zoo.  We had been watching the weather like a hawk and were afraid that Saturday would be rained out.  Saturday morning we woke up to a kind of rainy day, but it looked like it was clearing up, so we took a chance, threw all our stuff in the car and hit the road.

On the way to Columbia Elliot napped and Andrew watched some 'Finding Nemo' while enjoying a snack:

We got there right around noon. Elliot woke up as we were pulling into the parking lot so I quickly nursed him and then we headed in.  The first thing I wanted to make sure we did was head over to the giraffe exhibit because they have a thing where you can feed them from 10:00 - 1:30, or until they've had their fill.  I'd been talking to Andrew about feeding the giraffes all week and was silently praying that he wouldn't freak out when they got close.  We bought a couple scoops of the lettuce mixture and headed up to the platform. I was very pleasantly surprised when Andrew didn't hide from them or cry.  Instead he held up a leaf and let the giraffe eat it.

It was so cool.  The giraffes were so gentle and friendly and are clearly used to being fed.  I was able to pet their soft noses and Andrew was very excited about feeding them. Every time one of them would eat something he would shout "Andrew did it!!" (he needs to learn pronouns!).

This little giraffe was so cute!

After we were done feeding the giraffes we headed over to find more animals.  Next up was the elephant exhibit:

They don't have elephant rides, so Andrew had to settle for  sitting on this one:

I had promised Andrew that we would get him some ice cream at the zoo,  but instead we bought him a souvenir icee that he could carry around:

He was also wearing his "birthday boy" ribbon that I bought for him. I thought he might fuss about wearing it, but he loved it.

We went and walked through the Kangaroo Walkabout:

I thought he would be interested in the 'roos, but he was more interested in stomping in the puddles that were leftover from the rain:

We stopped and looked at the flamingos:

And checked out the gibbons when he headed to get some lunch:

When we walked quickly by them to get to the giraffes they had been swinging among the branches and whooping, but when we stopped to actually see them they just sat there. Go figure.

We had a quick lunch and while we were sitting there I nursed Elliot for only the second time ever in public without a cover.  I'm always too nervous to do that, but I didn't take any bottles and Elliot did NOT like having the cover over him. Luckily I was able to be very discreet and there weren't all that many people there.

We saw the lions and the one tiger, stopping to take a picture with the tiger statue.

Elliot settled into the carrier:

We saw every animal on exhibit and found a nice man to take a family picture of us before we headed out. Of course Elliot was asleep  :)

All in all I think we were there for about 3 1/2 hours.  We stopped at the little playground and let Andrew run around and play some more.  One more stop at the potty and we got on the road to head home.  It was a pretty perfect family day and I'm so glad we decided to do that instead of throwing a big party and stressing over it.

Oh, and Andrew hasn't stopped talking about the animals and playing with the ones that we bought him since we got home. I guess he liked the zoo, too.  :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Take that, Pinterest!

When we were initially talking about having an actual birthday party for Andrew I had the idea of doing a pirate theme since he loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I started googling things and coming up with ideas.  I will say that the first place I went was not pinterest, though. I have an account on there and when I found images of things I liked I did pin them, but I didn't start out perusing on there.

The reason is simple - pinterest makes me feel like an inadequate mother.  I go on there and see all of these crafts that people do or the decorations that people make for their child's birthday parties and it in turn makes me feel like a mom fail.  I really just don't have time to make five different kinds of cake pops and color coordinated decorations with elaborate themes.  Maybe I just lack the motivation, I don't know.

Anyway, I pinned a couple cake ideas because once I put the idea of a pirate cake in Andrew's head there was no getting it out.

Fast forward to us deciding to forgo the big birthday party this year and do an outing to the zoo instead (if effing Mother Nature would cooperate!).  I still wanted to make a birthday cake for Andrew even if there was no party.  Every time I asked him what kind of cake he wants he would instantly say "Pirate cake!".  I came upon this one and decided to give it a whirl:

Before you laugh let me clarify and say I had no intention of making the little characters.  I looked up online who locally carried the little Jake and the Neverland Pirates figurines and hightailed it to JC Penney to pick some up.  The cake itself didn't look too difficult as far as shapes were concerned.  It looks like the front is a round cake cut in half and stacked and the back is a sheet cake cut and stacked in three layers.  How hard could it be, right?

I stopped by the grocery store on the way home in hopes of buying some icing from the bakery and getting them to dye some brown for me (I did that for his 1st birthday cake), but the bakery person was gone for the day and the other yahoo working there didn't know how to sell the icing apparently.  So instead I picked up the ingredients to make my own buttercream icing.

Before getting Elliot in the tub I mixed up the cake mixes and got the 9" round (yellow) cake and the 9x13 (chocolate) cake in the oven.  Once the boys were in bed I mixed up the icing and went to work constructing the cake.  I really should have taken pictures during the process, because in the beginning it looked like I had the makings of a giant pinterest fail.  I was already tired, however, and didn't stop to take any pictures of the mess. Instead I slapped some more icing on it got to the decorating.

The brown isn't as dark brown as I wanted, but since I was working with red, blue and yellow food coloring it was as good as I could get.  I was afraid that the back of the cake was going to topple over, but a couple dow rods inserted for stability helped.

There were a few decoration mishaps (ran out of blue icing) and that messed up part of the yellow border in the back is from Jake falling off, but all in all I think it came out ok.  The most important thing was that Andrew loved it.  He particularly loved the candles and I had to relight them five times so he could keep blowing them out.  So while my cake might not look exactly like the inspiration one, it wasn't a complete fail. And next year I will give myself a little more time to work on whatever cake I'm going to make for him so I can make it even better.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy 3rd Birthday, Andrew!

It's really hard to believe that it's already been three years. Three years ago at this moment I was in the hospital, blissfully numb from an epidural, throwing up from nerves and trying to push our still unnamed little bundle out into the world.

At 11:05 AM he was here:

Now three years later we have this sweet and silly little kid:

It's gone by so fast.  I thought it wasn't possible to love someone as much as I did that day three years ago.  Now I know it's possible to love them even more.

Happy birthday to my sweet little man.  Your smiles warm my heart and your laughter and hugs can always cure whatever ails me.  I love you so much more than you'll ever know.

Monday, March 24, 2014

7 Months! (A Baby and Body Update)

Whoa. How did that happen?  Has it seriously been 7 months since this little guy came flying into our lives?

Some days it's felt like it's dragged on (during those sleepless nights), but other days it feels like it has gone by in the blink of an eye.  It's been seven months of snuggles and tears and giggles and love.

Seven months and one day ago I was still worried that I couldn't possibly love another child as much as I love Andrew. Today I know that it's true that your heart expands with each child.  I look at that sweet face and can't believe I ever thought I couldn't love him as much. When I walk into his room in the morning and he pops up with this giant grin on his face my heart swells with so much love.

Elliot is still a different baby than Andrew (obviously). He is starting to settle in to more of a routine, though.  I don't want to jinx it, but he's finally starting to sleep at night (at least most nights).  The past two we got 11 hours out of him which is awesome. It would be even better if I could actually sleep.

The bottle strike is a distant memory (at least for now) and he's been sucking down milk like there's no tomorrow.  He's still being a little picky about eating, but he seems to love peas and carrots, doesn't hate sweet potatoes and isn't a fan of green beans.  I tried giving him a pickle to chew on since Andrew loved them, and all I got was a disgusted look:

He still doesn't have any teeth and I'm fine with that - less biting!  As far as his size, he is now in size 3 diapers, can fit in 6 month clothes, but is mostly in  6-9 or 6-12 month stuff.  His hair hasn't fluffed up like Andrew's did, but it's starting to fill in more.  I would estimate that he is about 18 lbs and I have no idea how long he is.  He's growing well and I have no concerns there.

We're still working on sitting unassisted. He can do it for short periods of time before he falls over. He rolls all over the place and scoots backwards, but we aren't anywhere near crawling. Andrew was 9+ months when he crawled for the first time so I'm not concerned there.  He's taken a real interest in whatever Andrew is doing.  Yesterday anytime Andrew was playing with something Elliot would try to scoot over to him and grab at whatever he had.  I have a feeling this is just the beginning of many battles for toys.

All in all he is doing very well and I'm very pleased with how far we've come.

I'm less pleased at how far I have come as far as my postpartum body.  Bathing suit season is just around the corner and I am NOT ready. I tried on every swimsuit that I own this weekend and I almost cried.  Everything makes me look and feel gross.  I am clearly going to need to go shopping before hitting the pool or the beach.  I need bigger tops to contain me and more flattering bottoms.  Here is the best of what I have currently:

I really need to start running more and get serious about my workouts (and my diet).  I still have the stomach pooch and my butt and thighs are depressingly large.  I knew it would probably be harder to bounce back this time with a couple more years on me, but I thought there would be more progress by now.  I need to rein in my sweet tooth and control my eating habits better. I'm just always so hungry. And I think that while I am still breastfeeding my body is going to hold on to some of the weight (just like with Andrew).  Being pale doesn't help...

So that's where we are at seven months.  Hopefully by 8 months I'll see some progress with my body and I KNOW we'll see some changes with Elliot.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Preschool Decisions

Holy cow.  Is it really time to start thinking making decisions about preschool?  As much as it makes me want to cry, the answer to that question is "Yes".

Andrew will be three next week ** sniffle sniffle ** and that means we will be gearing up to move him from his current small in-home daycare to a preschool environment with more kids.  We aren't doing it just yet - he'll be moving in August. Mostly because while they are both at the same daycare we get a $5/day discount on Elliot (for being the second child) and because preschool will actually be more expensive than daycare (something I was naively unaware of until I started looking at them).

Initially we planned on sending him to Coastal Christian because it is literally right down the road from our house.  The more I looked into it, though, the more I thought that it wouldn't be a good fit for him. Based on talking to other parents and what Andrea has seen with her past kids going there we have both been concerned that it would not be enough of a challenge for him and that he may begin acting out.  The three year olds there are learning colors and numbers and other things that Andrew has known for a long time.  I'm afraid he'd be bored there.  We had considered it because we thought it was cheaper, but their school day ends at 2:40 so we would have to pay for 3 hours of after care every day. And we would have to figure out what to do with him over the summer since it's not year round.  Add all that up and we wouldn't be saving any money and would be sending him somewhere that I don't think will benefit him.

The next place I looked at was Children's Discovery Center.  I took Andrew there to tour it back in December and I was very impressed.  It's a new school that just opened last August so everything is all bright and clean.  While we were walking through and I was talking to the assistant director Andrew made himself right ah home and climbed into the ball pit in the indoor play area. I discussed their teaching philosophy with the director and I love that they don't base things on age there, it's all performance based. So if Andrew is ready to move up to the next class he won't have to wait until he turns four. And he won't have to wait until the rest of his class is ready to move up.  They are very hands on there and use the  Reggio Emilia philosophy for teaching.  This will give Andrew some control over what he is learning and I think it will be more of a challenge and will hold his interest.  He is a smart little kid and I really think he will thrive there.  Plus their hours are 6:30 - 6:15 and it's year round. So we won't have to worry about after school or summers.  It's a little further from home, but since it opens earlier J can drop him off on his way to work and I can take Elliot to daycare.  It's $975/month, which isn't cheap, but in all honesty it's not much more than we are currently paying for daycare.

I also looked at Chesterbrook Academy and while I liked it, I didn't love it.  I think he would do ok there, but it's all age based and I think there is the possibility that he would be a little bored there as well.  One thing they do have going for them is that there is a pool and they do swim lessons over the summer.  It's an older school so it's not as shiny and impressive as CDC and it's further from home.  It's only about $50 less per month, so it wouldn't save us much by sending him there (and to be honest with the extra gas to get there it would work out to the same).

Our hope is that we will only need to send him wherever we send him for a year.  The elementary school next to us has a 4K program and we are really hoping we can get him in to that.  Unfortunately there are only so many spots and it is needs based and since Andrew is already such a little smarty pants he won't get priority.  Andrea just informed me this morning that he is already recognizing 85 words, he can count to 20 and recognizes numbers up to 40, knows all of his colors and shapes and I can't even remember what else.  He has really come out of his shell the last couple months and I'm so proud of everything he is learning.  As much as it pains me every month to write that check to daycare, she is doing a phenomenal job with him and has been worth every penny.

So there you have it. Before we know it this little dude will be heading off to his first school:

Be still my heart...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Birthday Party Planning... Or Not

Yes, that's right. As much as I am in denial, in less than two weeks my little munchkin is going to be three years old.(What?!?!)

Since his birthday is rapidly approaching I started to think about what we're going to do to celebrate.   His first birthday didn't really have a theme beyond having a dinosaur cake and some decorations.  For his second birthday we had somewhat of an Easter theme and had a little Easter egg hunt in the back yard and set up his jump castle for the kids.  He had a good time and it wasn't too much work (we smoked some barbecue and I made cupcakes.)

My first thought for this year was a pirate party.  He LOVES Jack & the Neverland Pirates.  I started looking all over Pinterest to find pirate cakes and decorations for his party and got a little bit excited.  Then I started thinking of the guest list.  I sent messages to my family to see if they'd be available.  My mom said "As far as I know, yes". My oldest sister responded with "It depends on the time. Both girls have soccer games that morning." And my other sister responded with "I took 11 days off for this cruise so I'm working a lot when I get back. Sorry I'm gonna miss it."  So yeah, there was less than no excitement from my family.

I thought about saying to hell with them, we'll just do a party on our own.  Then I realized that since he is in a very small in-home daycare that Andrew doesn't have a ton of little friends yet.  We have friends with kids around his age that we could invite, but the more I thought about it the more I thought maybe it wasn't necessary to go through a ton of preparation (and the expense of buying a bunch of stuff for a party) to throw a big party for kids he doesn't know that well.

So I had a brainstorm.  Instead of throwing an elaborate party that he most likely won't remember, why don't we just doing something fun as a family?  Andrew loves animals and I've been wanting to take him to the zoo for a long time and what better time than his birthday?   We'll be going to Riverbanks Zoo up in Columbia the weekend after his birthday (please let us have good weather!!).  My in-laws are going to meet us there since it's about halfway between their house and ours, so they will be celebrating with us. I still plan on making him a cake and maybe we'll even take it with us so we can do a little celebration there.  The more I think about it the more excited I get. I keep asking him if he wants to go to the zoo for his birthday. He says yes and when I say we can see lions and tigers he says "And rhinoceroses?".  I said we'll see monkeys and he started making his monkey noises

I've been looking at their website and you can feed the giraffes and walk around with kangaroos. There are pony rides and train rides, too.

So there we are. Instead of a big party with a lot of work and stress we are going to do an experience birthday for him.  I'm really looking forward to it (even if I do want to cry about the fact that my little baby is turning three!). Here's hoping he loves it as much as I think he will.

Can't believe he's turning 3!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finally Settling In

When I was pregnant with Elliot one of my biggest fears was about how it would affect the life that we had settled into with one kid. It felt like things were finally easier. We were able to go out and do things without it being a big production. We even took a couple little vacations and it wasn't a complete disaster.

Fast forward to Elliot being born. In the first couple weeks it all came back to me just how hard it can be to get out and about with a newborn.  It took me what seemed like forever to be comfortable enough to go out by myself with both boys. The first time I took them both to the grocery store by myself felt like a huge victory.

Even going out as a family felt like a huge ordeal. I had forgotten how much stuff you need to take when you have a little baby in tow. I went back to being nervous that I had forgotten something and/or that we would have a huge meltdown in public.  Elliot isn't as easygoing as Andrew was as a little guy and I've felt like on edge at the thought of going out and doing things. Especially with the bottle strike that we dealt with for a few weeks - I almost felt trapped.

Well, after 6+ months I finally feel like we are settling into normal. That we are getting back to a routine and being able to go and do things.

This past Saturday we went downtown because I needed to get a gift for a bridal shower that evening.  Instead of just going down myself we decided to make it a family outing since it was such a beautiful day.  Elliot woke up from his 2 hour nap (yay!), I nursed him and we headed out.  We parked at J's office and walked down King Street, Andrew in the stroller and Elliot snuggled up to me in the Baby K'Tan.  I found a gift and then we strolled around town killing time while it was being wrapped.  I was pleasantly surprised that he passed back out for another snooze while we were walking back to the car:

That evening I had the tea party themed bridal shower to go to so J was on his own with both boys.  Had this been the previous weekend I would have been a huge ball of anxiety since Elliot was refusing bottles.  Instead I felt like it was ok for me to go out and have some me time with some friends that I hadn't seen in forever:

Yesterday was another beautiful day outside so we took advantage of Elliot finally settling into a nap routine and gave my car a much needed cleaning (with Andrew's help):

 I hope he is that excited about helping out when he is old enough to actually help.  After he was done washing he enjoyed sitting in the car and turning every knob and pushing every button that he could find:

After Elliot woke up I took him out for a little photo shoot since I wanted to get a couple pictures of him in this cute little outfit before he gets too big for it:

It was a really nice couple days. Not at all like last weekend when I spent the better part of Saturday in tears while we worked on breaking the bottle strike. This was a weekend that I really enjoyed.  Spending time with all my boys and getting a little time on my own. I finally feel like we are settling back in to some sort of routine and that life is getting a little bit easier.  It makes me look forward to all the things we'll get to do in the future with our boys - and maybe even getting a little more me time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

6 Month Photos

This past weekend, in the midst of bottle strike hell, we went and got Elliot's 6 month pictures done. When we did his newborn pictures we were given the option of doing her "Grow With Me" package to get 6 month and 1 year pictures done.  I'm so glad we did because OMG look at this cuteness:

Even on our worst days I look at that sweet face and absolutely melt.  He is my beautiful squishy baby and I am so beyond blessed to call him my own.

And it just kills me to see how different my two boys look from each other.  Here is a comparison of both of them at 6 months:

I've always loved Andrew's baby blues, but Elliot's big brown eyes are so sweet.  I'm interested to see if there is more of a resemblance as Elliot grows older.  Either way, it goes without saying that we have two awesome little boys. And we make some damn cute babies  ;)