Friday, April 4, 2014

A Snapshot of the Girls

Time flies by so fast with these two lovable little girls of mine. Every day they find some new way to make me laugh  (or a new way to drive me crazy) and I keep telling myself to get better about writing down their anecdotes.

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Maddie is 21 months old now and wants to be just like her big sister. She likes to pick out her own outfits, brush her hair and get a little spritz of conditioner and a hair bow, use Mommy's lip balm, and walk up and down the stairs by herself (holding my hand!). We also have regular nail "spa" days where both girls get their nails trimmed and little mani-pedis with their pink Piggy Paint. She enjoys playing with the light switches, helping me put things in the recycling bin, and splashing in the bath tub. Bubbles are an all-time favorite, although she wants to do them herself so most of it gets splashed into the grass!!

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Maddie is such a ham, and a total riot to watch and play with. I am glad that she is so spunky, especially since Anna can be very outgoing. They are such a good balance with each other and I can't wait to see them grow up together.

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Maddie surprises me sometimes with the things that she knows. She picks up new words all the time, including her new addition the other day - "Poo poo!". I love feeling like I can communicate with her and generally being able to figure out what she wants. She will make animal noises at the animals she sees in her books, and she can also point out all of her major body parts like nose, toes, ears, mouth, tongue, teeth, hands, fingers, and her favorite - belly button! I love it so much when she says "Peez" and "Thankeeeee" for "please and thank you", and when she takes Kingsley a piece of kibble for a treat and gives him a pet and a kiss and says "Bye-bye Kingsey" when we leave. Maddie will shake her head and say no, nod her head and say yes, and clutch things with a very emphatic "Mine!!!" She weighs about 25 pounds right now and is in 24 month clothes. We also finally took her for a very overdue shoe fitting and she has greatly enjoyed stomping around the house in her new pink flower shoes.

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She is at one of my favorite ages right now because even with how quickly she learns things and how quickly she grows, she is still such a snuggly baby to me. I love how tightly she clings to me when she is scared or gets a boo-boo, and how she melts onto my shoulder when she is ready to go to sleep. I love the way she holds my hand and how she grabs my face to make me look at her and give her a kiss.

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Maddie is finally getting some hair in and I am thrilled to see little baby curls coming in. I know this sounds bizarre but I have always thought that she has such a prettily-shaped head, and I can't wait to finally see what her hair will look like.

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Maddie loves these pictures in the foyer - she will clamber up onto the bench and point out everyone in the family - "Nanny, Maddie, Mommy, Daddy!"

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Anna is my firecracker - I had to laugh the other day when a friend referred to her kid as a "threenager" because I knew exactly what she meant. Anna is exploring her emotions and learning to work through frustration, anger, and learning how to behave appropriately. I do what I can to encourage her and to help her make choices and to teach her the rules for our home and for around people. Generally she is very happy and curious and affectionate, and I feel so lucky to get to spend my days with this joyful little creature. And then yes, there are numerous times where I send her to her room for some quiet time, which is a much-needed reset for all of us!!

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Collecting her treasures

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Anna loves school and art projects, and she has also been really into helping me with the garden and our seedlings and plants. She also enjoys helping me make sure Kingsley always has food and water, and both girls like to help me feed the fish and the frog. We also all take a daily stroll down to the mailbox or down the block to the other cul-de-sac, and we take advantage of every warm sunny day this crazy weather will throw at us. Anna adores having picnics on our porch or down in the yard on our blanket, and you should have seen her eyes light up the other day when I pulled out a real picnic basket, just like in one of her favorite Curious George episodes. She loves to help me around the house, and will drag around her step stool to help me do things like putting clothes in the washing machine or dust or wash windows. I even had her scrubbing baseboards the other day although that didn't last long.

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One of the things we have been working on recently with Anna is the concept of time. I have always used a timer system with the girls, where I will warn them of an upcoming event or transition, and say "Okay, I am going to set a timer for x minutes, and when it goes off, we are going to go do x". But recently we have been working on bigger concepts of time, like days of the week, months, and seasons. It is fun to see Anna try to work through these, and to tick through the week's agenda on her fingers. I have also been delighted to see her saving up coins in her piggy bank in anticipation of feeding the flamingos at the zoo. And I was SO surprised the other day when we walked up to Kroger - she had kept a quarter in her hand the entire time, and although I knew she had it in her hand, I didn't know what she was going to do with it. We get inside and she immediately runs over to the gumball machine and asks me to help twist it- she was SO proud to get her little handful of Skittles! I have no idea where she learned that, but needless to say, I was impressed!

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Here we are walking up to get her hair cut.

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Anna adores her little sister and is thrilled that she is big enough to play now. I love seeing them interact and even though they have their squabbles, they generally are joined at the hip. Anna will take Maddie by the hand to go play in her room or in the play room, and she will bring her toys and books. The other day, I woke up to Maddie fussing in her crib, and closed my eyes for just one more minute. I woke up some time later and peeked in the nursery to find Anna in the crib with Maddie, surrounded by an armload of books and Maddie's favorite baby doll. She had heard her sister fussing and ran in there to keep her happy, what a sweet helper! They have both been begging to sleep together in Anna's room for quite some time now, so we have just started testing out letting Maddie sleep out of the crib. She might end up back in there but for only being one day in, she's doing pretty well being out of her crib.

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Opening their new dolls from SuSu

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Pretending to be Daddy.

The other day, I was cooking dinner, and I turn around to find Anna trying to push Maddie into the freezer. I am about to yell at her when I hear Anna say, "Okay Maddie, be a big helper and go find the ice cream." I started laughing SO hard and am laughing even now, just thinking about it.

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Anna's imagination is exploding right now and she's always coming up with some new game or pretending to be some new character- Queen Elsa and Captain Hook and the Sea Witch are the current favorites.

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I hope you all enjoyed this little peek into our lives these days - I really do enjoy these posts and I keep telling myself to get back into this so we have these memories recorded...so hopefully you will start seeing a lot more of these again!!

Spring Cleaning

We have been busy bees over here knocking out a ton of Spring deep cleaning. Kathryn's shower was perfect timing as it got me going earlier - maybe we should have a big Spring party every year!

Spring cleaning is a totally different animal now than it was pre-kids. Tasks take longer, tasks get derailed, eager kiddos want to "help", tasks just don't get done at all. I have been trying to max out my time with the girls at school, and I am regrouping myself to take advantage of these last two months before school is out for the summer.

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I always like hearing what other folks are doing to gear up for Spring, so here are the major things on my list right now. If you are doing any big cleanings or projects around the house, please share - I love to hear about them!

1) PURGE. And PURGE again. It is crazy how closets get forgotten, stuff gets lost in drawers, and clutter can just accumulate. I am taking advantage of my Spring cleaning itch to be relentless with the trash bags and the Goodwill bags and the Craigslist pile, and pretty much no room is safe. I have been trying to be very thoughtful about what stays and what goes. Am I holding onto something that is never used or never worn because it was a gift? Because it's a certain brand name? Because we paid x amount of money for it? Because maybe it will fit again someday? Because maybe someone will want to use it someday for something? Because some unlikely hypothetical third baby might like this particular toy? I have been bagging it all up and I am always amazed at how freeing it can feel to clear out a space.

2) Schedule and Balance. One thing that I have really been struggling with since being stuck at home with the kids for the last 5 months (one more month to go!) is finding a balance between keeping up with the house, spending quality time with the kids, and finding time for myself. And don't get me wrong- we have been very happy at home and it's not like this is all some huge crisis...it just feels like we could always be doing a better job balancing work and play. I feel like I have to spend so much time every day getting everyone's clutter picked up and dishes done and counters wiped down and floors swept and laundry washed - and I tend to get caught up in the cleaning and chasing this never-ending to-do list. Or I have a fun day or two with the girls and then the house is a total disaster. The girls are generally good sports about it and love following me around the house like little ducklings. And it has gotten a lot better now that the weather is nicer and we can be outside a lot, but I still find it hard to strike a good balance between having a clean and presentable home and spending the time I want with the girls. And finding time to do things that I enjoy doing - hence the fact that this blog has been quite neglected. So I am resolving to come up with a new cleaning schedule, one that is more conducive to our daily routine than my old one, and holding myself to it - once the day's to-do list is completed, I'm done and letting myself off of the cleaning hook. 


3) Clear the Bottlenecks. I have been paying a lot of attention to where things tend to get bottlenecked around the house, and doing my best to keep the process moving. I have started doing smaller but more frequent loads of dishes and loads of laundry. I have observed what areas tend to collect the most clutter and have been actively trying to implement new organizational tools and systems to try to decrease my daily decluttering workload (now just to get everyone using it - I guess that's the trick!). I also have noticed which rooms take the most of time - the kitchen? Sure. But the playroom? No way, josé. Once I realized how much time it takes me to get that room clean, I hit the playroom first with my Purge goal and cleared out SO many little pieces and toys, and packed up most of the remaining toys into the closet. Now that the girls only have a few things out that they can access, I can have the entire room picked up in ten minutes. There are so many places around the home where time and efficiency is compromised - focusing on these areas is a vital step to any Spring cleaning plan, in my opinion.

4) Restock and Repair. I have done inventories of things like our first aid kits, cleaning supply cabinets, toiletry stocks, even my makeup bag - expired or empty containers have been tossed and new items purchased. Along the repair line, I have been focusing on cleaning all of our major appliances, seeing which ones need new filters or services scheduled, and making sure they are still working as hard as we need them to be. We finally had to bid farewell to our washing machine and bite the bullet on a new one, but I'm so thrilled with our new one that I can't say I was too sad to see the old one go.

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 5) Switch the closets. This is a pretty big task every season and one I'm happy to say I just knocked out this week. For my clothes, I pulled out all of the winter things, made sure they were all clean and things that I wanted to keep, and put them away in a big plastic storage container I have in the closet. The girls' clothes are always a bigger headache. I have a small closet in the playroom that is full of storage bins of their clothes, and they had gotten to be a total mess. I forced myself to finally pull all of the bins out, re-sort them all into their proper size bins, and get rid of a bunch of the clothes. Their winter clothes were put away, Anna's old 24 month clothes were pulled out and inventoried and washed, and their new Spring clothes from SuSu were washed and hung up neatly in their closets.

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This probably wasn't the Spring cleaning list you were expecting, but let me assure you that all of the cleaning is getting done too - windows have all been washed (and re-fingerprinted and washed again, haha). Walls have been scrubbed, ceiling fans and baseboards dusted, doors and trim washed. Etc., etc. etc.

So please share your Spring cleaning lists too or blog posts if you've written them - I always get inspired seeing what everyone else is up to this time of year!

A Spring Spritzer

A few weekends ago we had the most beautiful 70 degree weather, and we spent most of the day outside. As we pulled together a dinner on the porch, I started craving some kind of Spring drink, and remembered the elderflower liqueur we had bought on a whim a while ago. Luckily, Steve has several speakeasy and Prohibition-era cocktail books, and I was able to find an awesome little recipe for a drink called an Elderflower Spritz.

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It was perfect for a breezy evening on the porch and I am sure this cocktail will make a reappearance soon!

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Elderflower Spritz

4 oz Brut Champagne
2 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
2 oz club soda
3 thinly sliced lemon wheels

Fill a large wine goblet with ice. Carefully pour the champagne over the ice cubes, followed by the elderflower liqueur, and then finish with the club soda. Add the lemon wheels and stir slightly.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

FitBit One Review

I know there are all types of pedometer/heart rate monitors on the market, but I never really paid attention to any of them. But then I had several friends get FitBits, and after hearing all of them rave about their FitBit, I decided to look into what was so great about these little gadgets.

Well, a couple of things really got me intrigued. I loved that it synced so easily with Apple devices. I loved that it seemed like it had a really user interface. And I loved that it could track your sleeping - after my seizure I was very interested to get a better feel for how well or poorly I was really sleeping at night.

I originally had my eye on the newest model, which is the FitBit Force. It was out of stock for months, and I finally just picked up the One for myself. It all worked out really well in the end- I love that I can just clip the One to my bra or shirt or pants and nobody knows it's there. There has also been some kind of recall on the Force so it all worked out well in the end.

 
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Once I got the Fitbit out of the box and charged, all I had to do was pair the Fitbit to my iPad and iPhone Bluetooth signals. It then walked me through the very short set-up and I was ready to rock.

Guys, I freaking love this thing. It tracks steps, stairs climbed, calories burned, and my sleep. There are also ways to track your food and exercise, and link it to My Fitness Pal. It will send prompts to your phone if you are close to one of your goals (like Steps or Stairs) to help push you to walk just a little bit further. I can look either at the FitBit screen or on my iPad or iPhone app to see where I am for the day, and I also get a weekly report with all of the days' tallies.

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The sleep tracker really has been interesting to see. I am a lot more restless at night than I ever would have guessed, especially when kids are in the bed. Seeing the reports broken down into numbers has also helped nudge me into going to bed earlier to try to get 8 hours of sleep....it doesn't always happen but hey, it's better than before!

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I kind of messed this one up with the start and stop times but you get the general idea. You can go into the app and add or adjust the sleep log if you forget to press the buttons, which is really really nice.

It is pretty impressive to me how many steps and stairs I can rack up, just being in the house all day. I am sure every mama knows how much two little kids can keep you on your feet! And it is good motivation to take a walk up to the grocery store or library with the kids, because that is a quick way to get to my 10,000 step a day goal.

If I had to come up with any complaints about my FitBit, I would say that I wish it had a heart rate monitor. The other thing I am not crazy about my version is that it came with a wristband to wear on your wrist while you are sleeping, and you are supposed to slide the FitBit into the pocket. I kept having problems with the FitBit either falling out of the pocket or the whole wristband coming off, so I finally just gave up and leave it clipped to my bra. I find that it's still generally accurate although I am sure the wrist is better, if you can get the band to stay on. Overall though, these are minor inconveniences, and the pros of this little gadget very much outweigh the negatives!

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

One of my favorite memories from my pregnancy with Anna was the wonderful baby shower that my friend Kathryn hosted for me. So I was beyond delighted when I had the chance to return the favor and celebrate Kathryn and her baby boy, due in May.

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This baseball shower was SO much fun to put together, and I was thrilled with how everything turned out. And I was very grateful to Sarah of Fresh Design Group for taking all of these pictures!!

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I served up the standard baseball fare - hot dogs, popcorn, soft pretzels, sandwiches, and some fruit salad as a nod to something healthy on the table.

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I found this cute sign on Etsy and sent it home with the Mommy-to-be. Maybe we will see it in a special little someone's nursery!

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Cookies
Publix cake is a given around here! It says "Congratulations on your new MVP!" And those cookies are my very first attempt at royal icing.

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The favor table - Cracker Jack boxes (of course!) and chocolate baseballs. Kathryn also brought a scrapbook for everybody to personalize a page.

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The tables - I usually like to set up the tables on the porch but since the weather has been so unpredictable, I had everything set up inside. I loved those pinwheel centerpieces, and the hardest part about them was keeping my girls away!

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We played a game that I came up with called "Hot Seat". Everybody got to ask Kathryn a question (all baseball and baby related). If she got it right, she got to pick a prize out of the basket. And if she got it wrong, the question-asker got a prize. Kathryn pretty much got them all right, even though I intentionally threw in some stumpers! It was a fun game anyway.

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Presents! And aren't all of those baseball outfits darling? Kathryn got a few other baseball outfits in her gifts so this baby boy will have quite the wardrobe for all of the Braves games.

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 I can't believe I've been friends with this girl since elementary school!

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All of our guests!

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We are so excited for Kathryn and can't wait to meet her baby boy!