Friday, December 20, 2013

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express!

Every year now for quite some time, Steve has wanted to get a train to go around the Christmas tree. This year he took the plunge and ordered one from Amazon. I had no idea which one he picked out, so imagine my surprise when I opened the box to see this:

Just like a kid on Christmas.

I just realized Maddie has blueberry yogurt on her head in these pictures but eh, what are you gonna do.

The train itself is pretty cool - it has a train whistle and even blows smoke rings.

It is a special treat for the girls to get to play with the train with Daddy. What a fun addition to our Christmas tree!

Oh Ho the Mistletoe!

Christmas preparations have been in full swing at our house the last few weeks and the girls are loving it! It has been so much fun watching them enjoy all of the Christmas to-dos and it feels like the big day can't get here soon enough!!

My DIY advent calendar for the girls. Every morning when they wake up, they run over to the calendar eager to see their little present for the day! I filled up the last week of the calendar with the best prizes (after taking these pictures) and they keep begging to open them. It has been an unintentionally great lesson in waiting, but the main purpose is to help them count down until Christmas!

We also got a special delivery from the North Pole!

Anna named her Ballerina Belle and sometimes Mommy and Daddy remember to move her every night. Sometimes we sneakily move her while the girls are distracted with breakfast. It has been fun though and Anna loves finding Belle in the morning...sometimes Maddie even beats her to it!

The mistletoe - a new addition this year. Kissy kissy!

A sampling of our Christmas cards - the other window is full too and Anna likes to point out all of her friends.

I hope all of your Christmas preparations are going well too - what a fun month!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The End of an Ear Era (well, hopefully)

This has been kind of a rough year with the girls and their health. Maddie has had an ear infection literally every month that antibiotics didn't seem to touch. Anna has had her fair share too - I think we were at the fifth ear infection the last time we were at the pediatrician. Other parents who have been through this know how challenging they can be, and I felt so helpless knowing my poor girls were sick and I couldn't make them better. It has been affecting our family life too - plenty of stressed out days where the kids basically just scream at me all day, and plenty of sleepless nights.

After who knows how many rounds of antibiotics, our pediatrician agreed that it was time to try something new. We visited an ENT (actually the same doctor who performed Maddie's little skin tag surgery last year) and he confirmed that both girls were prime candidates for tubes in their ears. Even after 10 days of medicine, both girls had an insane amount of fluid in their ears and he said that it was causing a lot of wonder the girls had been so cranky. We also had both girls do a hearing test with their audiologist. Anna was in a separate room with a window, and she was supposed to put a toy in a basket every time she heard a tone. It was heartbreaking to watch and see how many tones she was truly not hearing. I had had suspicions for a while that something was off with her hearing and speech, but it still made my heart ache to watch her do that test. Maddie showed signs of diminished hearing too, and the audiologist was confident that tubes would help clear out the fluid and give them both much better hearing.

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We woke up bright and way too early to go to one of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's outpatient surgery centers. Although the girls were not impressed at being hungry and thirsty (you can't let them eat after midnight although Maddie was able to nurse once at night, at least), both perked up once they got into the waiting room. So many toys and lots of new friends! Anna is on a big "doctor" kick right now too so she was in awe at all of the medical sights to see.

The staff at CHOA were wonderful, so engaging with the kids and very willing to answer any questions we had. They even let Anna and Maddie pick out a toy from their prize cabinet - of course Anna picked a doctor's kit!

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Maddie went off into her surgery without incident, but while I was waiting in the room with Anna (Steve was in the post-op waiting area), the nurse came in to get me to sign the consent form that we were only doing the tubes. I hesitated, and then asked if the doctor could make a decision while he was in there to remove Anna's adenoids too. We had been going back and forth about whether or not to remove them, and had decided with the doctor at the pre-op appointment to wait and see how the tubes helped before removing anything. But then the night before the surgery, I had been watching my sweet girl sleep and hearing her snore. I started second-guessing the decision to cancel the adenoid surgery, and I was so thankful that the doctor came back in after Maddie's surgery to talk to me about it. It really meant a lot to me that he would essentially halt the operating room to come have a conversation with me, and when I told him that I just really felt like maybe we had made a mistake, he agreed that based on how Anna was acting, her adenoids really could be an issue even apart from the tubes. I signed the new consent papers to go ahead with the adenoidectomy.

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I stayed with Anna while she fell asleep, and then went to the post-op room where Maddie was not a happy camper. As soon as I sat down and took her in my lap, she flung her little arms around my neck and held on for dear life. She very promptly conked out and fell asleep. Anna came in not too long after, and she was an even unhappier camper. With the adenoid surgery, she had a tube in her throat, and she was hoarse and disoriented from the anesthesia. I handed off Maddie to Steve, pulled Anna into my lap, and soothed her to sleep. I haven't had Anna fall asleep on me in so very long, and I was thankful that my snuggles were able to bring her some comfort. And I was also relieved to hear the doctor say that going ahead with the adenoid surgery was absolutely the right decision - her adenoids were indeed large and causing a lot of pressure and blockage. I am glad I spoke up about un-canceling the surgery and I'm glad the doctor supported that decision!!

Anna woke up from her nap a totally different person. She was cheerful and happy to have a popsicle, and immediately started begging for pancakes. Both girls were in good moods, devoured their breakfasts, and spent the rest of the afternoon going for a walk and playing outside in the beautiful weather.

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We have already noticed a difference. I am SO glad that we went forward with the surgeries and I am relieved that my girls seem to finally be feeling better. These past two days have been the most peaceful that we've had in a while and I am sure it will just keep getting better. I am curious to see how their speech develops and how Anna's improves.

Thank you to everyone who sent good thoughts the day of the surgery - we know we had some supportive cheerleaders following their progress!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A 30th Birthday Celebration

I turned 30 years old on Friday and welcomed it with open arms. I thoroughly enjoyed my 20's but am even more excited for my 30's!


Steve helped plan a special day to celebrate, and then friends stepped in to help make the party last all weekend (as all birthday parties should, right?).

We started out my birthday with a trip back to the Atlanta aquarium. We had been annual pass holders for several years but let it lapse, and we finally took the plunge back into it after having such a successful time at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg. We had a great time although our reviews were a little mixed on the new dolphin show. I was also pleased to see that the Georgia Aquarium had also added in a small, slightly more private area to breastfeed since the last time I was there (it's in the restroom connected to the cafe area, towards the back...or maybe it's always been there but that's certainly the first time I have ever seen it).










Waving to the whale sharks.


The aquarium had a Santa station where your kids could pose for pictures and whisper Christmas wish lists, but Maddie fell asleep right before we got in line.

We came home to beautiful flowers and strawberries from Poppy and SuSu! We also decided to do cake early so our girls could participate too. Anna had been talking about singing the birthday song and blowing out candles all week, so we didn't want to disappoint her!



Steve and I finished the day with an honest-to-goodness date night, with a babysitter and everything! Thank you to Melissa for the wonderful sitter recommendation. We enjoyed a night up at the Mall of Georgia, which involved too many margaritas at the new Tin Lizzy's Cantina and then some birthday shopping.

My birthday was extended into the weekend with a lunch date with Kathryn, and then a Christmas shopping spree with my friend Oleks. I am a lucky gal to have such wonderful friends and family who were so willing to celebrate with me! Thank you everyone too for all of the Facebook birthday wishes and calls and texts - I am a happy birthday girl!

Turkey Day!

This year, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving with Steve's extended family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite a beastly drive to get there, we had a good visit with family and we were thankful to get the chance to see so many members of the Forbes clan.


The girls were highly intrigued with their great-grandparents' dog and her crate. Anna carried around the dog's stuffed animals the entire time and kept putting them down for naps in the crate.


And no, I can't get one picture of both girls looking at the camera and smiling, haha.







Joan knew a sure-fire way into a three-year-old's heart - a box of animal crackers and a big glass of milk.

Anna was a little starstruck with her aunt Mary - a REAL LIFE DOCTOR. Luckily we brought Anna's doctor kit so they could play check up.

The dog needed a check up too, apparently.



Jack and Joan live on a small lake, so when the girls started getting antsy, we bundled up and took a walk.




Our branch of the family. Susan was home sick with the plague and Kristy was visiting her boyfriend.


Joan also mentioned that she and Jack will be celebrating their 60 year wedding anniversary right after Christmas - happy anniversary Joan and Jack!

We had a fun time in Raleigh and hope to be able to come back soon for a longer visit. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mountain Monkeys

In November, our friends Derek and Jessica invited us up for a weekend at their family's mountain cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The fall leaves and chilly weather made it the perfect weekend to explore the mountains and the nearby town of Gatlinburg.

Our other host for the weekend, Forrest.



Such a good sharer.

We started out Friday morning with a pancake breakfast and then checked out the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. I have to confess that I had very low expectations for this aquarium, especially having been to the Chattanooga and the Atlanta aquariums fairly recently. I was so pleasantly surprised by this aquarium - it seemed like it was really built with children in mind and the kids had a great time looking at all of the animals. Anna particularly enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit.



All of the kids fell in love with the penguins.






Digging for dino bones.






We were lucky to have the place almost entirely to ourselves, at least for the first trip around.










I didn't really get too many other pictures, but it was the perfect weekend to spend with friends in front of a fire and a football game. We very much enjoyed our trip to the mountains and Anna keeps asking to go back to "Mr. T's" house! Thanks so much for a great time, Derek and Jessica!