Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy; I don't think I've done a review on any of the books yet, so I'll just sum up the series.

Based on the description, I never would have picked this book up on my own to read. I'm not into fantasy/sci-fi stuff at all (Twilight being the exception to that rule-don't judge) but I kept hearing great things about this series, so I decided to give it a try.

It took me awhile to get used to the subject matter in the first book, but once I got into it, I was hooked. The 2nd book was a bit disappointing, and I didn't find it to be nearly as riveting as the first. But of course, I wanted to read it because I was already invested in the story & characters at that point.

I'm glad that I stuck with it, because halfway through book #3, I was actually looking forward to my commute on the bus so that I could continue reading.

If you're going to commit to the series, my only suggestion is that you read all of the books together. I was on the library wait list for the first 2 books, so I had to wait about 2 months in between them. There were about 7 months in between books 2 & 3, just because I got caught up reading other things, and that was way too long for my brain. I found myself confused for some of the first part of book 3, just trying to piece back together bits of the story line and characters.

Tummy Time: SUCCESS!

As an update to the last time I blogged about tummy time (which, at that point was titled "FAIL"), I am happy to report that tummy time is improving in our house. YAY!

My friend, blogless Meghan, suggested that I use a big ball to balance him on during tummy time; the round shape would make it harder for him to cuddle in and turn tummy time into nap time. So we dug the exercise ball out of the attic, dusted it off and got started. It was pretty much an immediate success because he hated it, and caused himself to pull his head up because he wanted to cry about being on it. Score one for mommy! Eventually, he learned to not hate it quite as much and would agree to doing it for a few minutes at a time. They also have scheduled tummy time sessions at school, which I think are really helping, now that he has a grasp on the whole concept. Here he is, doing his job!

I'm so proud! It's still not his favorite activity, he starts to look pissed after a few minutes. Exhibit A:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So much to say....

I feel like there are many times throughout the day that Jake will say something, or Liam will do something, and I'll make a mental note of it, but then never remember when it comes time to blog about it. I blame my horrible case of Mom-nesia. (what? it's totally real.) I'll try to remember some stuff....


  • His teacher recently told me that he's really starting to "come out of his shell" at school. I find this amusing because there are many days when he doesn't stop talking at home! but, I guess he's a bit more quiet at school & until recently, has fallen into more of the "follower" category with his friends. But lately, he's been initiating play with other kids, and often shares his thoughts and ideas during circle time.
  • He's starting to recognize some letters, and (when he wants to) he can spell his name out loud.
  • He is obsessed with the little girl, Juliette, who lives behind us. Many mornings are started with the question "Can we go see Juliette now?" The 3 year old mind does not understand why we cannot go knocking on her door at 6:30am on a Tuesday.... But when the time IS appropriate to play, they play very nicely together and the parents are really nice, too, so it's been a lot of fun. I will; however, be bolting Jake's windows shut in a few years...we don't need any Dawson's Creek type business going on, a la Joey & Dawson!
  • He loves to talk about all of the things that he and Liam are going to do when Liam gets bigger. One day when he was eating some strawberries for a snack, he pushed half to the side & told me he was going to save them for Baby Liam for when he got older, so they could eat strawberries together. Awww!!
  • The kid is obsessed with Christmas. His "wish list" is 19.2 miles long at this point, and consists of everything from cars, to toy story dolls to chocolate chip cookies.
  • He has a new favorite show every few days; recent favorites have been Jake & the Neverland Pirates, Wild Kratts and Curious George. Diego & Mickey Mouse Clubhouse have been favorites for awhile, and inevitably, he returns to those even after going astray to something else for a few episodes :)
  • He is in the smiley baby phase and we, of course, eat it right up!
  • While he manages to just tolerate his baths every night, he loves the time after the bath, when we just let him hang out on his changing table & kick and coo before getting into his PJ's.
  • He's starting to try and mimic actions, and he loves when I sing "twinkle, twinkle little star" and do the hand motions
  • He still loves his bouncy seat, and is still just meh about the swing. I hope to be able to bust out the exersaucer pretty soon, but he needs to get some better neck control before I feel comfortable putting him in it.
  • I always get great reports from daycare, they say he's such a happy baby and that he rarely fusses for them. He's taking his bottles just fine there (I just moved him up to a level 2 this week---I guess it was taking him 40 minutes to finish a bottle. Oops. I kind of blocked some of this stuff from the first time around, I almost forgot about moving up to different levels altogether)
  • He's still in 0-3 month clothes, and has room to grow in most of them except for his footed PJ's. We've noticed in the past week that they're getting a bit small on him, length-wise. Our to do list for this weekend includes dragging down the bin of 3-6 month stuff and seeing what we have for the next season.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Welcome to Club 30, Brian!

I'm the cougar in our relationship & already turned 30 months ago, but Brian finally caught up to me this week and joined the big 3-0 club. We didn't do much for his actual birthday since it was a school night, but we plan on heading out to dinner this weekend to celebrate. I'm always at a loss for what to get him, but I knew months ago this year that I really wanted to find a nice painting of Heinz Chapel for him (we met at Pitt, then we were married at Heinz Chapel)

I ended up going with a Linda Barnicott print and he loved it! (we still need to get it framed, I dropped the ball on that one & didn't realize how long the turnaround time is to get something framed...oops)

Happy birthday Brian, we love you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

If I had a million dollars....

...I think one of the first things I'd do would be to hire a cook. Seriously. I despise cooking. I hate everything about it...the time it takes, the clean up required afterward and I hate the fact that I'm absolutely terrible at cooking. I lack the patience involved....just give me the end result!

If I lived by myself, I would probably survive on cereal for dinner every single night. Seriously, who doesn't love a good bowl of cereal for every meal? But, in case you haven't noticed...I have some kids to feed. Now that I'm back to work, I HAVE to get back into menu planning. It's something that comes & goes in waves for me, but I definitely notice that getting dinner on the table is much easier if I know ahead of time what it's going to be and can do some prep for it. I'm hoping that once things settle down a bit, I'll have some free weekend time to make some freezer friendly food that will be good to have on hand for week night dinners.

I also like to make some stuff that's a bit more involved on Sundays, then force my family to eat the leftovers another day that week. Here are 2 recipes that I probably posted before, but that I made recently and need to add back into the regular meal rotation.

Taco Cornbread Pie

1 lb browned ground beef
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 pkg taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
1 cup kraft shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg corn muffin mix

-Preheat oven to 400
-brown ground beef; drain fat
-add green pepper, seasoning mix and water;bring to a boil
-reduce heat to medium low; simmer 10 minutes stirring occasionally
-spoon mixture into 9 inch pie plate; sprinkle with cheese
-prepare muffin mix as directed on package; spoon over cheese, covering cheese layer
-bake 20 minutes or until golden brown; let stand 5 minutes before serving

**When I originally posted this recipe, I used to make it with chicken, but found that it was sometimes dry. The beef tastes much better!

Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

8 ounces uncooked pasta (I usually use whole wheat penne)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c medium onion, finely chopped (I cheat here and just use dry minced onion-so much easier, and it's always on hand!)
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
3 cups cooked cubed chicken (I use the cans)
1 14.5 oz can italian styled diced tomatoes
1 8 oz container of chive & onion cream cheese
1.5 cups shredded mozz cheese

-prepare pasta according to package
-meanwhile, spread oil in bottom of 11x17 inch baking dish; add onion in a single layer, bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until just tender (if you're cheating like me & using the dried onions, you can just skip this step & add it to the mixing bowl!)
-transfer onion to a large bowl, then set aside
-drain chopped spinach well; stir pasta, spinach, chicken & next 4 ingredients into onion in bowl
-spoon mixture into baking dish & sprinkle evenly with shredded mozz cheese
-bake (covered) for 30 minutes; uncover & bake 15 more minutes or until bubbly

Too cool for school!

All good things must come to and maternity leave ended this week, which meant I went back to work, Liam started going to school and our family has to adjust to a whole different schedule/routine!

I have to say that going back wasn't *quite* as hard as I thought it would be; I think the anticipation of going back was actually much worse than just getting up that morning and going. Even though I was really upset on my last day of leave, and very sad to leave in the morning for work, once I got to the office I was surprisingly ok (the donuts bought by my coworkers helped ease some of my pain). Of course, I still had all of the same thoughts flowing through my head that day...Liam just seemed so little, what if he doesn't want his bottles, what if he feels abandoned by me, etc, etc... The logical side of me knows that he's going to be just fine (and probably will grow to love school, just like Jake always has), but the working mommy side of me felt that guilt that sometimes creeps up. His teachers always have a great report at the end of the day and have been telling me what a happy baby he is. He takes all of his bottles with no problems, and naps like a champ.

I was a slacker & forgot to charge the camera for his first day of school (shame!), so this is technically day #2:

We did the same pose that we did with Jake on his first day of school :)

So far, it hasn't been too bad trying to get everyone and everything out the door, then back in the house in the evenings. We've been really good about getting everything prepped and ready to go the night before AND actually getting out of bed when the alarm goes off (I have always struggled with this...I love me some snooze buttons!!) Day #1 was kind of a fail; either the alarm didn't go off as planned at 5:15am or I turned it off without even waking up (there's a pretty good chance that it was the latter) Aside from that, I've managed to catch my bus on time every day, and Brian hasn't had any horrible incidents trying to get both boys to school just yet.

I usually don't get to see Liam in the morning (little sleepy head has to be woken up by Brian every day!) but since we all had to leave by 7 today, I got to get him up and ready and hang out for just a bit:

big yawn in the middle of our photo it time to go back to bed? This morning stuff is for the birds!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Many good things come with the start of fall...

....pumpkin spice lattes, cooler weather, sweaters, football...and NEW SEASONS OF TV SHOWS!!

Here is the line up of when my favorite shows will be starting (yes, I'm a dork & actually took the time to research this, while hoping that there weren't so many overlaps that my DVR explodes):

Monday, 9/5: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Oh, Camille Grammer, how I love to hate you!)

Tuesday, 9/13: 90210 (I'm very in touch with my inner teeny bopper)

Tuesday, 9/13: Parenthood

Wednesday, 9/14: Up All Night (new show, I'll give it a shot!)

Monday, 9/19: Dancing with the Stars (I try to cut this out of the line up every.single.year, but they always have one "star" who draws me back in, time and time again. Why can't I quit you, DWTS??)

Monday, 9/19: Castle

Tuesday, 9/20: Glee (I'm hoping it's better than last season)

Wednesday, 9/21: Modern Family

Wednesday, 9/21: The X-Factor (I really wasn't going to do this one, but the recent commercials have intrigued me)

Thursday, 9/22: Grey's Anatomy

What will you be watching this fall? Did I miss any good shows??

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Luau Party 2011

After freaking out about the forecast all morning (scattered thundershowers, starting at 3pm...the party started at 4pm), we somehow ended up with a stroke of luck and NO rain!! That's 5 years in a row of no rain on luau day, woohoo!

Some party details:


I realized that if our friends keep reproducing at the current rate, there will soon be more kids at the luau than adults. It's never good to be outnumbered by kids hopped up on sugar!! But for me, the kids have become one of the highlights of the party, it's so much fun to watch them run around together. And for there being so many kids so close to the same age (I think there were at least a dozen kids, ages 2-4 there), I didn't really hear too many squabbles amongst them. They seemed to play very well together, and it was nice to have the extra yard space this year for them to run around.

Brian's birthday isn't until the 16th, but since it's the big 3-0 for him, I figured I'd take advantage of all of our friends being there & get a cake (mental note-never, ever listen to the guy at giant eagle when he tells you that you need a full sheet cake for the number of people that I told him would be there. I will be eating cake for all 3 meals and snacks in between for the next few days, trying to get rid of it!)

Liam sported a teeny, tiny luau shirt for his first party and even managed to make it until the very end before spitting up all over it. And he decided to share that spit up with Michelle's son. Directly onto his head. I believe it was Michelle's husband who made the comment, "It's just not a party until someone gets thrown up on!" So true my friend, so true.

Here he is, snuggling with Aunt Missa:

And some other random party pics...can't wait until next year!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Party kids

I'll do a full luau post at some point soon, but for now, enjoy these videos! The first is the kids at the bar, enjoying some of Brian's famous kid-friendly "boozeshakes" :) the 2nd video is what happens AFTER you give the kids boozeshakes.....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alright now STOP--pajama time!!

For as much as I love adorable outfits (including, but not limited to, polo shirts, sweatervests and teeny tiny pairs of jeans), I sometimes think babies look the cutest in their jammies :)

Don't you just want to pick him up & snuggle him??

Enjoying the last few days

Where did the last 12 weeks go? How do I have a baby who is almost 3 months old already? It just doesn't seem possible. with the 3 month milestone also comes my return to work. ugh. And I'm having a much harder time with it this time around...wouldn't you think it would be the opposite? that I'd know what to expect and be more at ease this time? Not so much. I think this is due to a few reasons.

First, Liam was a summer baby. Maternity leave May-August is much different than leave January-March. It was a very cold winter when Jake was born, so I was hesitant to take him out of the house on super cold days. Combine that with having first time mommy anxiety (what if he cries when we're out? what if I have to breastfeed him?), led to us spending an awful lot of those 3 months in the house. This time around, I only have the heat to contend with, weather-wise (which has kept us in sometimes!! 95 degrees? No thank you!) The other concerns from last time just don't bother me now...if he needs to eat while I'm out, I breastfeed. If he cries, so what? that's what babies do.

Side note-I also remember my diaper bag weighing approximately 52 pounds every time I left the house with Jake. this time, it's not heavy at all? what did I have in there before?? Not sure what I skipped packing this time around, but my back thanks me.

Jake has stayed home with us 2 days a week, and he definitely keeps me busy! we've had quite a few play dates, which really help to pass the time. I think the fact that we've been pretty busy despite having a baby, AND feeling less claustrophobic have made this leave much different. I was pretty much going stir crazy by the time I had to return to work last time, craving adult interaction, and I really don't feel that way this time around.

I'm also really going to miss that extra time with Jake. Since the title of this blog is Parenting: Uncensored, I'll be honest and say that there were some days that he was being such a 3 year old, I wanted to rip my hair out. Sometimes it was hard having two here by myself all day; inevitably, they both would need me at the same time. I learned to do many things one handed that I just didn't think were possible before :) But really, this time with Jake I will always remember, and I love that. Sometimes we went places like the mall play place, or (somewhat against my will) Chuck E Cheese's, other days we just bummed around the house and played or did art projects. Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning, decide that I didn't feel like leaving the house or getting anything done, and I'd declare it a PJ and movie day and we'd snuggle on the couch to the movie of his choice. We tried to venture outside when we could, and even baked some cookies.

And of course, I'm going to miss my baby terribly when I go back next week. He's my little snugglebug, my smiley guy and my constant companion. When it was just him and I here, my favorite time of day was just after Brian & Jake left for the day; I'd make my breakfast & park Liam on the floor in the playroom either on a blanket or on his play mat. He'd coo and smile and kick his feet, and I'd enjoy my breakfast and talk to him about the agenda for the day. Sometimes our agenda including super fun stuff like laundry (he absolutely LOVES watching the washing machine and listening to the vacuum); other times, our plans were less involved and may or may not have included The Real Housewives of New Jersey. There were times when he'd fall asleep on my chest and I'd think "I'll go put him in his crib in just a few minutes...." A few minutes would go by, and I'd say it again to myself. If I had stuff to do, I would eventually transfer him. But sometimes, I just took that moment to hold him and cuddle him while he slept. Those are the things I'm going to miss the most.

How am I supposed to leave something this lovable??

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tummy Time: FAIL

I have a slacker baby. This is the result of many tummy time attempts:

Please note the absolute lack of motivation. Nada. He gets so cozy on his belly, he usually just snuggles in tight & either passes right out, or just relaxes. I've tried getting down on the floor in front of him to get his attention, rattling toys in front of him, putting a mirror in front, name it, I've tried it. He just doesn't care! Any suggestions??

Gracie has tried her best to coach him into proper tummy time, but no luck there either. The good news is, she's really developing her neck and upper body strength by participating in tummy time every day.

Monday, August 1, 2011

video slacker

I recently realized that I have no videos of Liam so far! Shame on me. Here is one from the other day; while he's not a fan of having his diaper changed, he loves when it's over and he can just play and kick his feet on his changing table. here he is, smiling and making some noises, while Jake entertains himself with his new Cars :)

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