Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Two weekends ago, I headed to Virginia to celebrate the upcoming arrival of my BFF's baby....the shower was a surprise to her, as was my arrival to her home, so it was a double surprise day for her, and it was wonderful to see the look on her face!

One of her friends from that area planned the whole event and did a fabulous job!

Congratulations to Melissa, Dennis and Ben...we can't wait to meet baby Parker, Liam is ready for his BFF :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recipe: Taco Pizza

Another Pinterest find!  What is below is the original recipe, I cut it in half (which was enough for me and Brian for dinner, then leftovers for lunch) and left out the olives and onions, and added a chopped green pepper in place of those. 

Taco Pizza

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning mix
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans Pillsbury crescent rolls
  • 1 (16 oz.) can refried beans (I used the jalapeƱo kind)
  • 2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican blend
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning to the ground beef according to the package directions.
  3. Unroll crescent rolls into rectangles. Place in ungreased 11 1/2 inch x 16 1/2 inch jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Press dough over the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust.  Bake at 375 oven for 11 to 13 minutes or just until golden brown.
  4. Microwave beans in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute.  Carefully spread beans over warm crust creating a thin layer.
  5. Top with cooked beef mixture, sprinkle with cheese followed by tomatoes, black olives and green onion.  Return to oven for 3-6 more minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.  Makes 12 main dish servings or 48 appetizers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Birthday party and product reviews

Cake: I ordered the cake from Sams Club; they get some points because they didn't have a "licensing fee" to use the Cars characters (Giant Eagle did) and their cake was cheaper overall.  My mom was able to pick it up for me on the way to the party, so it was good for convenience purposes.  It was a very affordable $21 for a 1/2 sheet cake (which was waaaaaay too much, I feel like I always over order food!)  The cake was cute (and Jake loved it, which is really all that matters) and the cake part of it was good, not dry at all...the icing was ok.  It almost had a gummy like texture (and I'm used to the gritty, sugary, rot-your-teeth kind of icing from Giant Eagle).  But it was good, I'd order again and just know that the icing has a bit of a different taste to it. 

Favors: Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the favor bags I put together.  The party place provided their own favors, so I only wanted to add a few "Cars" touches to go with the theme.  I picked up Lightning McQueen favor bags from Walmart, then hit the jackpot at Target for the actual favors.  Right after Christmas, they had a bunch of stuff from the dollar bins marked down 75% off (see?  it pays off to stalk the dollar bins!)  and I was able to score some Cars pens and magnets.  I added in some Cars fruit snacks and the bags were all set!

Wildwood HighlandsI was really, really happy with our choice for the party site.  I had never been there, but I had heard good things and they had decently priced packages for birthday parties.  I was happy that (unlike most places) the price per child included food.  They received admission to the play place, tokens for the arcade games, a bag of goldfish, lunch (hot dog or pizza), dippin dots ice cream and drinks.  We had the room for an hour and a half, then the kids were able to stay and play as long as they wanted to (or until their parents could drag them out) the room was a good size and we had 2 party coordinators the whole time, who led the kids in games, took food orders, cut the cake, wrote down all of the gifts and who gave them and loaded them all up for us to take home.   They let me drop all of my stuff off there earlier in the week, so literally all we had to do the morning of the party was show up with the cake and the birthday boy.

Obviously, we were there in the winter, so we were limited to indoor activities, but they have a ton of stuff to do there.  And I'll be keeping it in mind for one of his older birthday parties, I think he'd love a laser tag party.

The big birthday bash!

I have to admit, I was hesitant about throwing a "friend" birthday party for Jake's birthday this year.  By hesitant, I mean that I had no intentions of doing so.  I always thought that 5 was the big year that you started to invite friends.  But, when all of Jake's friends started having parties, and Jake started to talk about his own birthday party, Brian asked if I would be willing to acknowledge the fact that 4 is the new 5 in the birthday party world.  So, we decided to go ahead and do it this year...and I'm glad we did.

We had the party at Wildwood Highlands, and I was really happy with the way it turned out there (I'll do a full review post later on)  Surprisingly, Jake seemed a bit overwhelmed when the party first started, and I got nervous that the whole thing was going to be a disaster.  He was doing things that he normally doesn't do, like hiding behind my legs when people tried to talk to him, and at one point he even asked Brian to hold him (?)  I asked him what was wrong, and he said he felt scared.  My guess is that maybe it was all a bit much...most of the kids got there all at one time, and of course they're excited, so they're kind of all buzzing around him, trying to get his attention, etc...he warmed up once the cake came out and I told him we could open presents soon :)

After the cake and present festivities, it was time to move on to the play zone!  Each child received admission to the play zone (ball pit, climbing tubes, etc...) and some tokens to play arcade games.  All of the kids seemed to enjoy themselves, it was fun to watch them.

Liam hung out with GG and Pappy pretty much the whole party and really enjoyed checking out all of the lights and noise.  He took a brief nap on GG, then had some lunch. 

"Um...I was told there would be cake?"

GG and Pappy joined us back at the house and Jake got to open more presents from them, and we were able to relax the rest of the afternoon (well, everyone but Brian, who spent a considerable amount of time removing toys from packages and assembling everything)  The day was a success!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dirty little secret.

Everyone has their secrets; if you're a parent, you probably have a secret that deals with the one thing that no one can ever seem to explain or get a firm grasp on for an extended period of time: SLEEP.

You've seen our type before, the sleep-deprived parents of the world...dark circles under eyes, vacant expression, the look of someone who would kill for another cup of coffee.  I spent much of Jake's first year trying to figure out a way to mainline an IV of caffeine directly into my bloodstream.  ahhh...memories.

The funny thing about the Sleep Secret is that it's almost shameful to talk about...if your kid isn't sleeping, you keep it a secret because you don't want people to think you're doing something wrong.  Not to mention the fact that other people always seem to know what the problem is and feel the need to offer their opinion, even if you didn't ask for it ("Oh, you're holding him too much during the day, that's why he won't sleep at night!"  "He's waking because he's hungry, put some cereal in his bottle, he'll sleep all night")  Or, the super annoying ones who say things like, "Wow, that's terrible...all of my kids slept through the night from the day they were born on.  Yep, all night.  They never wake up."  Which of course, we all know is a bunch of BS, but in our sleep deprived state, we don't have the energy to argue with them.

And if your kid IS sleeping, you keep it a secret because you don't want people to think you're bragging or (even worse) to jinx the good sleep.

I have been on both sides of the Sleep Secret.  Jake was a terrible sleeper, literally from the day we brought him home from the hospital. He had his days and nights confused for WEEKS and it was torture. Not only was he wide awake at night, but just getting him to sleep took hours.  He wouldn't nurse to sleep, or even just be rocked to sleep...oh no, you had to carry him around the house and do a bounce/sway/sing little routine that was exhausting, especially when it went on all night.  There were some nights I honestly thought I would lose.my.freaking.mind.  He was waking every 2 hours to nurse, so I'd nurse, change his diaper, begin the painstaking process of getting him to sleep and if, IF, I was lucky enough to get him to sleep and in his crib, he was inevitably awake again within 30 minutes to eat.  It was a vicious cycle.  Oh and one time, being the rookie parents we were, we got the bright idea to force him to adjust his day/night confusion...we kept him awake all day, assuming that he'd HAVE to sleep at night after not sleeping all day, right??  WRONG.  Total and complete backfire.  Instead, he was just awake allllllllll night that night. I want to cry at the memory.

  He eventually worked out his day/night confusion, and got to a point where he wasn't waking every 2 hours to eat...so we had a bit of a break.  BUT........

Then, it happened.  The dreaded 4 month sleep regression.  It's every parents' worst nightmare; you're going along, everyone is happy and well rested, then BAM!  Parties at 1am! 2am! 3am!  Hey, let's never sleep again!!  Such a slap in the face.  You can read my blog post about his regression here.

So here's my secret about Jake's sleep: we Ferberized him.  Think what you might of this method (which, by the way-is NOT the cry it out method, they are 2 different things, so google it before judging), but it was what worked for us.  He was miserable from waking up all night, every night, on the hour...we were miserable from his nighttime shenanigans.  We wanted our happy baby and our own sanity back.  After weeks and weeks of it not getting any better (and actually getting worse) we decided that it was time for Dr. Ferber to pay a visit.  Jake was around 5.5 months old.  It took 3 nights.  I honestly don't remember the details at this point, but I remember it was not quite as bad as I had anticipated. And what we got in return was a happier, more well-rested baby.  I think that's an overall win for everyone involved.

Moving onto Liam, I really hoped while I was pregnant that I would get a sleeper.  I figured I was due for one....and he came through for me!  When he was first born, he woke every 2-3 hours to eat for the first few weeks, but by some type of miracle, did NOT require the elaborate routine to go back to sleep that Jake did.  I would nurse him, he would fall asleep after he was done eating, I'd put him in his crib...he'd stay until he was ready to eat again.  I felt ecstatic. I felt human.  But-I kept my mouth shut unless people asked about it.  You know, the whole bragging and/or jinxing thing.

As time went on, he started to stretch those night feedings out more, until he was going 4-5 hours every night, then shorting after that waking once overnight to eat around 3 or 4 months.  He also started to go down in his crib for the night awake.  Bliss!!  Around 5.5 months he pretty much stopped waking up for that middle of the night feed....after he consistently did this for a few days, he did wake up randomly for a few nights, but I sent Brian in (if I went in, I know he'd assume the all you can eat all night buffet was open for business) and he was always able to rock him back to sleep.

There was a rough time after Thanksgiving where he started waking up again; he'd had the stomach flu, then we traveled for Thanksgiving, then he had a cold...so  once he was healthy again, we took the same measures, pretty much just sent Brian in to comfort him and rock him back to sleep.  We were back on track pretty easily.  Same thing more recently---it took awhile longer, but after his recent ear infection and spending a few nights in our bed, he was waking over night.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

So here is where we are with Liam---he goes to bed around 7:30pm and sleeps through the night.  Which is great, and please dont' think I don't realize how lucky I am...but for Liam, his definition of "end of the night" is somewhere around 5am.  5:30am if I'm really lucky, and 4:30am if I'm having an unlucky day.  There's my secret---I have a baby who sleeps through the night consistently and who we can put in his crib awake to go to sleep for the night, but this same baby seems to think we work on a farm and need to be up before the sun rises.  So what do you do?

At this point, we found there's nothing we really can do...we've tried nearly everything, it seems.  we've put him to bed later.  We've put him to bed earlier. We've gone in and soothed him, tried to rock him back to sleep, turned on his soother and left him in there (while crawling back under the covers and praying that he puts himself back to sleep)....nothing.  I even tried feeding him as soon as he woke up one time, thinking that would lull him back to sleep.  FAIL.  He is just wide awake in there.

Yes, I know I should be appreciative of the fact that he sleeps through the night (and trust me, I am!) but of course, if he could just stretch his definition of the night by just a teensy bit of time, that would be great.  For now, we're just going with it, taking turns getting up with him on the weekends (because really, do you need 2 parents to be awake before 5am on a Saturday?) and hoping that it passes.

So there...my secret is out.  I have 2 kids: neither of them are perfect sleepers.  But I think I'll keep them both anyway.  Just keep the coffee coming.  You know, for the next...oh, 18 years or so.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jake's 4 year check up

I'll be sure to do a post about Jake's party (it was a success!)  but I did want to post details about his 4 year check up today.  First up, the stats:

Weight: 33 lbs
Height :38.75 inches

Last year for his 3 year check up, he was 30 lbs and 37.5 inches.  So 3 lbs heavier and 1.25 inches taller...which is strange, because I really would have thought he had grown more than that (height-wise anyway)  It seems like he's hit at least 2 growth spurts in the past year that have caused me to have to suddenly change pants/short sizes for him because they were suddenly all like floods on him (or, in the case of shorts, suddenly looked like he had been teleported back to 1977).  but he's growing right on track, which is all that matters. 

The doctor said everything looked great physically and that he's right on track for his age developmentally.  He was very impressed with how social he was (he didn't stop talking the whole time once the doctor came in...he filled him in on school, his party, what kind of cake it was ,the presents he got, and the fact that he loves chicken nuggets).  He got 3 shots (which he was not thrilled with), but the good news is that we're DONE with vaccines (aside from the flu shot) for him until he's 11.  Finally, the end!  The shots must have taken a toll on him, he took a 3 hour nap this afternoon...I had both of the boys home with me today since it's MLK day, so score for mommy, I had a huge chunk of time to myself this afternoon since Liam took a nearly 2 hour nap in that same time period.

Speaking of Liam, we also had an appointment for him this morning to have his ears checked after the infection he had...fortunately, that had cleared up and all was well.  He received the 2nd half of his flu shot, so he's all up to date until his 9 month check up next month.

Here's Jake getting ready to ski in our backyard yesterday...yes, in our backyard.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Jake!!

If kisses were colors, you'd see every one of the bands of a rainbow that shines in the sun.
If kisses were pebbles, your beach would be lined with stones by the millions, of all shapes and kinds.
If kisses were comets, the sky would be bright with flashes of fire that streak through the night.
If kisses were flowers, you'd have huge bouquets of roses and daisies picked fresh every day.
If kisses were raindrops, a sea would appear, created by showers that fall far and near.
If kisses were acorns, a forest would grow of beautiful oak trees, in row after row.
If kisses were snowflakes, your world would be light, sparkling with crystals of silver and white.
If kisses were blankets, you'd always be warm, wrapped up from the cold during winter's worst storm.
My kisses are colors, and raindrops that flow, and pebbles, and acorns, and comets that glow,and flowers, and snowflakes that fall from above; they're my way, sweet baby, to give you my love.

~If Kisses Were Colors, by Janet Lawler

I know you're not at all a baby anymore (and in fact, if I were reading this to you now, you'd probably tell me that yourself), but we used to read that book to you at bedtime nearly every night for a long time, and thinking of it still makes me smile.  And reading the words right now, while writing a happy birthday post to you brings tears to my eyes as I sit here and wonder how four years have already passed.

You never stop amazing us, and your daddy and I are so very proud of you every day.  Whether it's coming home from school with projects that show off your creativity, your new reading and writing skills, or just stories of how you played with your friends...it's one of my favorite parts of the day.  Catching up with you on YOUR day and getting to see the world through your perspective.  Last week, you made a snowman out of marshmallows at school...something so simple as putting a few marshmallows together with a toothpick and giving him M&M's for buttons brought you so much joy...it's times like those that really make me stop and catch my breath, and force myself to slow down and take in those moments.  

There isn't adequate space on this blog to be able to describe you...in summary, you are smart, funny, kind, sensitive, the best big brother in the world, headstrong, stubborn, you have the memory of an elephant, you have endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm, and you're so sweet that it's  all I can do to not squeeze you to pieces at times.  

We've really been seeing you come into your own lately...I've heard stories of you sticking up for your friends at school, volunteering to be first for things in front of a group, and showing a huge interest in your brother recently.  I can't wait until he's a bit older, and the two of you really can play together and have that bond.

You're into Toy Story, superheroes, blocks and Cars right (Cars the movie, and Hot Wheels tracks).  You're becoming a pro at puzzles, and you find one or two books that you like and we read them constantly for weeks at a time, then switch.  (Right now, those books are 101 Dalmatians and The Cat in the Hat)  Lately, you've been great about entertaining yourself...I'll be cooking dinner and hear you setting up an elaborate "city" of blocks, filled with superhero meetings, bad guys and race tracks.  Your go-to TV shows are "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" and "Scooby Doo".

You don't like to sit very still, you're constantly on the go...but at night, you always ask me to lay with you for a few minutes before you go to sleep.  You put your hands in my hair and sometimes pat the side of my face, while you chat about your plans for the next day (including what's for breakfast--you still have an amazingly large appetite!)   

Thank you for being you, Jake...we love you!  Happy birthday!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Pinterest project

I was inspired to make a wedding frame gift for my brother Nate and his new wife, Katie after seeing something on...where else?  Pinterest of course! 

Don't mind the watermarked picture (Photography by Amanda); I didn't have any of their pictures to use yet, so I had to quickly print one off of her site to have something to put in there.  I was pleased with how it turned out!  The letters and numbers for the monogram and wedding date were from this Flickr page and I followed the directions for formatting it correctly in Publisher on this site, then I uploaded it to snapfish, changed the pictures to sepia toned and I was done. 

Loyal kid.

"I pledge allegiance, to the flag...of the United Steaks of America..."

~Jake, reciting the pledge last night


Monday, January 9, 2012

Hit the slopes!

The temperature around here randomly climbed up into the mid-50's over the weekend, so Brian decided to take advantage of it and took Jake skiing on Saturday.  You can imagine how excited Jake was to wake up and discover that was the plan for the day! 

Love the sign!!

My little guy hit the slopes at 9:30am and after some coaxing, finally left for the day around 5pm.  Brian said he had to talk him into taking a few breaks throughout the day, Jake just did not want to stop.  At one point, Brian told Jake he had to go to the lodge to use the restroom and take a break; Jake's response was, "that's ok daddy...you go ahead and go to the potty, I'll stay out here and ski some more"  :)

Yes, they were there at sunset :)

By the end of the day, he was falling asleep on the chair lift in between runs but was still adamant that he wanted to keep going.  I think it's awesome that he loves it so much and that he and Brian now have this as their "thing".  Brian said he passed out in the car pretty much right away:


Here's a video of him, one of the first runs of the day on the little kiddie slope area:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book List: 2012

Wow, I definitely read far less this year than I did in 2010 (I read 28 books in 2010, as opposed to a mere 20 this year...I blame my maternity leave, since I do most of my reading on the bus during my commute)  Here is the full list of books read in the past year:

  • "The Postmistress" (Sarah Blake)
  • "All That is Bitter and Sweet" (Ashley Judd)
  • "The Paris Wife" (Paula McLain)
  • "Genuine Lies" (Nora Roberts)
  • "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" (Beth Hoffman)
  • "Commencement" (Courtney Sullivan)
  • "The Breakdown Lane" (Jacqueline Mitchard)
  • "Barefoot" (Elin Hilderbrand)
  • "The Lincoln Lawyer" (Michael Connelly)
  • "The Big Five-OH" (Sandra Bricker)
  • "Mockingjay" (Suzanne Collins)
  • "My Horizontal Life" (Chelsea Handler)
  • "The First Husband" (Laura Dave)
  • "If You Were Here" (Jen Lancaster)
  • "Best Friends" (Martha Moody)
  • "Sing You Home" (Jodi Picoult)
  • "Sweet Valley Confidential" (Francine Pascal)
  • "Little Bee" (Chris Cleave)
  • "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (Stieg Larsson)
  • "Unbearable Lightness" (Portia De Rossi)
You can read my full list of book reviews here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Food for thought.

Christmas Videos

As promised, here are some videos from Christmas morning...the first one is us telling Jake it's Christmas and that Santa came, and the second one is his opening the gift he had been asking for for months, the giant talking Finn McMissle.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wild & Crazy NYE!!

New Years Eve is my least favorite holiday of the entire year; I'm not sure why exactly, I've just always found it to be anti-climatic and somewhat depressing.  It marks the official end to the Christmas season (*sad face*) and means that it's just a loooooong winter ahead of us.  Plus, I really don't like any holidays that would require me to stay up past 10pm.

Thus, we never really make any plans for NYE...but this year, we went all out!!  That's right, we got dressed (it may or may not have been the first time I had been out of sweatpants in days), loaded up the car and went to (wait for it, wait for it...) RED ROBIN!!  I hadn't cashed in on my free birthday burger there yet and time was running out (oh yeah, did I mention I had a birthday?  I'm officially over the age of 30 now.  Yikes.) 

This was Liam's first trip to RR, so it was a big milestone.  We busted out shoes for the event...yeah, that's right...those are teeny, tiny Chuck Taylors. (thanks, GG and Pappy!)

seriously? the cuteness level is out of control!

Liam fell asleep on the ride home, so after his little power nap he was ready to party looooooooong after his usual 7:30pm bedtime. 

So, we decided to let Jake stay up a bit later, too and played cards.  Santa brought him Go Fish and Snap for Christmas, he's obsessed with playing both of them. 

I have to admit, even though I don't care for the holiday, we had a good night.  I stuck with my usual tradition and passed out by 9:30pm.  2011 was a fantastic year for our family, and we're looking forward to finding out what 2012 will bring.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011-a year in germs.

I shouldn't say that...it hasn't been this whole year, but the last half?  ugh!  It started with Jake getting some type of weird virus back in July when we were visiting my in-laws.  A few days later, Brian came down with the same thing.  A few days after that, Liam caught the bug, but his turned out to be viral meningitis.  I had to pick Jake up from school one day with a random fever in September.  Same thing with Liam.  In October, Jake randomly ran a fever of almost 103 one weekend.  That weekend happened to be my brother's wedding...Jake was the ringbearer.  Terrible timing!

Then in November, Jake was sent home with the stomach flu; Liam came down with it a few days later.  The following weekend, Brian and I both had the stomach flu.  On the same day (brutal!).  And you may remember that more recently, I had a weird flu type illness a few weekends ago.  Then my mother-in-law had the stomach flu right before Christmas.  Phew.  You'd think we'd had enough for the year, right?

Wrong.  Liam has been sleeping through the night for awhile now, but on Christmas Eve, he woke up 2 times overnight.  We didn't think too much of it, could have been teeth or anything.  On Christmas day, he seemed a bit off....but we chalked it up to him being overstimulated with so many people in the house and so much going on.  He woke up again that night a few times, then started running a low-grade fever the next day.  He also decided to become a permanent fixture to me that day.  More overnight wakings that night and a slight fever the next day (tuesday) so I took him to the pediatrician, but nothing was wrong....lungs and ears were both clear.  The doctor said it might just be a virus, but if he was still running a fever by the end of the week to bring him back in.  Thursday night his fever went up to 102.8 and he was MISERABLE.  I felt so bad for him, he was just crying and crying :(  We took him back in on Friday...ear infection. A first for him, so I guess that's good.  He's been on antibiotics for a few days now and he's like a new kid. 

So seriously 2011...take your germs, stay away.  Here's to a healthier 2012!!!

And this has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but check out this ornament Liam made for us at school...I melted when I saw it.  I love the handmade ornaments we're collecting from both kids.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Um....how could I forget???

I realized that I didn't post pictures of one of the best parts of Christmas day...THE FOOD!! :)

the appetizer spread

No major catastrophes during the cooking process this year, go me! 
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