Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Local Challenge: Stearman Field

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.
But this girl is finding it quite delightful.

I can't help but be positively jolly this time of year.
And it's not just the anticipation of our upcoming Christmas movie all-nighters or our annual cookie-decorating marathon.
I actually like winter.
Or at least I don't mind it.
{Until about February 1st, that is. When it's time to bust out the mint skinnies and boat shoes.}

But winter definitely has its place.
I love me some big chunky sweaters, morning coffee in fuzzy jammies and slippers, and hearty "comfort soups" in the crockpot  at least three nights a week.
And I love that winter has a way of nudging me to embrace my inner-homebody and allow me some time to hibernate on the couch with my pups and endless episodes of Revenge on Netflix.

It admittedly helps that my super-hubby put up insulating plastic on our 60 year old kitchen windows. 
It no longer feels like I'm walking into the North Pole every time I load the dishwasher. 
So, I can enjoy the comfort of my warm home while it's chill-to-the-bone arctic temps outside. 

However, winter's harsh winds and dreary mornings do make it a bit more difficult to get out as much. 
Thus presenting a bit of a challenge for Gabe and I to fulfill our Local Challenge, where we committed to getting out and trying new local things at least twice a month. 

We've actually done pretty well so far. 
And we have a few things on our list to really get us in the Christmas spirit in the upcoming weeks. 

But I'd like to highlight a little gem of a place that we visited awhile back. 
A place that is absolutely perfect for a casual lunch after church with the fam or a celebration of sorts on the patio {a patio that has some hefty heaters for winter too}. 
We went with friends to Stearman Field in Benton, KS, where you can fly in or drive in

What an absolute treasure of a place!
I have no idea how I grew up only 20 minutes away and never visited Stearman Field.
Seriously, how? 
It's a tiny little airpark lined with beautiful homes, each with an extra garage.
*The extra garage being a place to park personal airplanes, of course.*
And you get to watch the takeoffs and landings of these planes up close and personal while you munch on fried pickles and sip on Boulevard Wheat. 
How cool is that? 
The kiddies absolutely LOVED it.
And there's even a nice little playground if the planes don't strike your fancy {or your super girly toddler's fancy *ahem*}. 
We had such a great time. The service was great, and the food was quite delish as well. 

This would be such a fun casual date or a nice get-together with friends. 
Can't wait to go back in the spring!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

15 Months

15 Months Old: 11/19/13

My Sweetest Beans.

This month has been one of our more difficult months. 
With a head cold, your first stomach bug, 3 official molars, and frustration over your mobility limitations, you spent more than a few days in a not-so-pleasant mood.

Yet in the same breath, this month was nothing short of amazing. 
Your growth and development is simply fascinating. 
With every new word, skill, and toddler trick, I'm taken aback.

I'm that parent. 
The huge dweeb.
The one who's giddy over every cute, silly, sweet thing you do.  

You could just sit there, drool, and blink. 
And it would still take everything in my power not to go banging down the neighbors' doors, begging to show them how awesome you drool and blink. 

It's funny how something as small {and obnoxious if you weren't 1 years old} as wiggling your tongue back and forth when I ask Where's your mouth, Lyla can make me jump up and down with excitement. 
Simply because it's new. 
Something you didn't do the day before. 
And certainly not the month before. 

I just love being a mom.
Your mom in particular. 

Even on the hard months. 
Especially on the hard months.
Because you're extra needy when you don't feel well. 
Which subsequently means extra mommy-snuggles.
In fact, mom and dad caved and let you sleep with them one Saturday morning.
I think we all stayed in bed until 11 that morning. 
The best!

So fussy moments and cranky pants aside, this month was a good one. 

  • I love getting texts from GiGi that tell me you're doing something new or saying a new word. Like when she told me you said hello for the first timeYou had just turned 14 months old, and you picked up a tv remote, put it to your ear and said hello? Sure enough, I witnessed it that night, and you've been saying it ever since: every time a phone rings, when someone knocks at the door, or when you see anything that remotely resembles a phone. And the little inflection you do at the end of hewwo? is enough in and of itself to make me die a happy woman. Absolutely adorable. 

  • I'm quite convinced you're going to be the artsy type. There is nothing you adore more than music and dancing. You've liked music since you were a wee babe, but lately you love music. When we sing, you carry your own little toddler tune, you love to play with your moraccas and symbols, and you dance the moment you hear a song. You've even started singing da-a-a-a-ann for "dance" when you're wiggling your hips and flailing your hands in the air to music. So we decided to try a demo Mommy and Me music class. Of course I signed us up the moment it ended. You loved it, despite the fact that it was smack-dab in the middle of your nap time. You especially loved the drum!
  • We've started working on our body parts this month. You have different things you do for certain parts: wiggling your tongue back and forth, putting your finger straight up your nose, and blinking your eyes. Although much of the time, you get them mixed up. I'll say Wheeere is Lyla's nose, and you start blinking, or Wheeere is Lyla's eyes, and you stick out your tongue. It's a work in progress. ;) But, there are two body parts you have down perfectly: toes and belly button. You say toes and pull up your feet and point to your toes, and you say bepp for belly button and pat your tummy. And then you pull up my shirt to point to my belly button. 

  • In lieu of your most commonly used nickname Miss Beans, I began calling you Miss Indie this month. Holy independence. You are a busy lady these days and want absolutely no help from mom or dad…or so you want us to believe. You've even started pushing me away, which is enough to make me curl up under the table and cry like a baby. But your short fuse is immediately ignited the moment your independence is hurdled by a toddler roadblock, like being unable to communicate what you want or your inability to walk without the assistance of an adult or push toy. If you don't get your way, you let us know either by crying or squeezing your hands into fists and shaking. And you don't get your way a lot. But our favorite is when you want more food. Instead of patiently signing "more" like you used to, you {in a very panicked tone} say take-you (thank you) over and over again until we get your more. This toddler thing is tough stuff, little love. 

  • You are absolutely everywhere these days, and you're fast too. You're not yet walking on your own, but we think you might be close. You walk all over the place, you just have to be holding onto something - mostly the furniture or your push toy. You are able to very slowly walk while holding onto an adult hand, but you are quite wobbly. And poor thing, you simply aren't confident in yourself yet. If we distract you, you will stand on your own, but the moment you realize you don't have help, you immediately squat and sit. Like every other major milestone, you reach them at your own pace. You like to be absolutely confident before fully committing and simply don't like to be put on the spot. You do things when you are ready, which is a fine attribute to have, my dear. 

  • You're still a fabulous eater. You love anything edible, and I think you'd eat forever if we didn't stop you. We try not to make you special toddler things, usually just cut-up versions of whatever we're eating. And you've gotten quite skilled with the spoon. I still have to scoop up whatever it is you're eating, but you take the spoon out of my hands and feed yourself. Although it's quite messy, we are learning! Oh, and you have the sweetest little habit where you eat with your feet stretched out touching the tip of your highchair. I don't know what you'll do when your legs are too long - you love your feeding stretch.

  • Your vocabulary continues to grow, and it's so fun to hear. Some words you've only said a couple times, some you say every once and awhile, while others you say consistently over and over. Some new words this month were: yes, that, those, hello, toes, dance (dan), brr (cold), flower (fow), blue (boo). *Although we go over colors all the time, I don't think you actually associated "blue" with the color - you were just repeating and pointing to things I said were blue. Still quite exciting to hear! 
  • Some of your faves for the month: "putting on" your shoes, pulling up Mommy's shirt to find her belly button, food {of any kind}, waterfalls in the bath, playing Supergirl with Dad, opening and closing doors, zipping up and down, leaves, climbing on your chair, laughing when mom tells you "no" after climbing on said chair, putting your feet up while you eat in your highchair. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

If I Could Keep You Little...

Would you believe me if I said I was spontaneous and go-with-the-flow? 
You know, easy breezy.


Well. You'd probably be right. 
I just have this desperate need to control and plan all things. 

But, let me give myself a little credit here. 
I have been known to be impulsive, and even have some uninhibited fun here and there. 
But mostly, I like routine and commonplace. 
The comfort of knowing my surroundings. 
So it's no surprise that change can be quite difficult for me. 

Behind the facade of my I'm-tough-stuff mask, is a panicked somebody-hold-me face when presented with major change. 
I guess I just like to take time to savor, process, and embrace new changes at my own pace. 

But even the smallest of changes deserve some recognition. 
Like the impending sub-arctic temperatures we are about to take on here in Kansas, for example. 
I'm not quite yet ready to let go of autumn. 

Although, I can't complain either.
We've had one of the most beautiful autumns in history. 
{And by "history",  I really mean, my personal history.}

We've marveled in the mild temperatures and streets splashed with vibrant hues of mustard, pomegranete, and merlot. 
We've played in the leaves, drank plenty of pumpkin spice lattes, and enjoyed trick-or-treating with friends.
We've savored the crisp air and the beauty of this particular fall as it *almost* reminds us of our autumns spent in New England. 
And Lyla's been a big fan too - inspecting every centimeter of her leaf piles, hearing the crunch beneath her little feet, and getting to play outside in November

I'm just not quite ready to say goodbye. 

But you know who else I'm not ready to say goodbye to?
Because it hasn't even arrived yet. 

The Christmas decorations are already in full swing for many, and our iTunes radio was playing Christmas music at work today. 
{Although, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some of my holiday shopping finished and our Christmas cards ready to be sent out.}
But still. 
My goodness, let's let Thanksgiving have a fair turn in the spotlight, shall we? 

But then, there are some bigger changes that occur in life. 
Sometimes these changes happen subtly, and one day we suddenly realize everything is different. 
While other times, big changes happen overnight, in an instant. 

Like when you suddenly realize that your baby is no longer a baby. 
And like the sparse leaf or two still hanging on by a thread in our neighborhood, I'm grasping at a few lingering qualities that are somewhat reflective of my baby
The baby that was born almost 15 months ago. 
The baby who is a full-on toddler. 

You guys. 
Lyla has changed overnight. 
I swear.

Gabe was out of town for a week, and when he came back he was positively positive that she's at least 3 pounds heavier. 
Oh. And she outgrew two pairs of her shoes. 
Shoes that fit her just last week. 

But the physical changes are somewhat bearable. 
It's the budding independence that has nearly winded me. 

Someone has finally figured out that Mom and Dad didn't hang the moon. 
And she is expressing that in as many ways as she can. 
Including pushing Mom away when she goes in for the used-to-be-the-norm kisses. 
Or squealing, screaming, and banging to tell us that she wants food and she wants it NOW.
By clenching her little fists into a ball and shaking when she is mad about something. 
And refusing to stay in one spot because she is busy.busy.busy. with lots of work to do. 

But then, in the most unpredictable moment, my baby is my baby once again. 
Needy for her mom and dad.
Wanting to be rocked to sleep.  
Desperate for some snuggles and a "giss". 
Both of which mom and dad are ready to dish out at the drop of a hat. 

Miss Beans' newfound independence is the first of many changes to come. 
And it really has me thinking, trying to process and prepare for these changes. 
It's these types of changes that are the hardest to wrap my head around. 
Because they're so very bittersweet.

And my thoughts can't help but be directed to one of my all-time favorite children's books, If I Could Keep You Little
It's a perfect representation of the bittersweet changes we experience as parents.
How we want to freeze time in hopes to keep our children little. 
To stop and savor the little phase. 
But then the book goes on to show that if our children stayed little, we would miss out on all their accomplishments, achievements, and dreams. 
Such a sweet, simple concept. 
And a such a wonderful reminder. 

So although it doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzes when Lyla pushes me away because she has bigger things to do, it does offer some form of relief. 
Relief in knowing that my daughter is growing and developing exactly how God intended. 
She's turning into her own little person and applying the new skills she learns daily. 

This is only the first step to Lyla's 18 year journey to independence. 
And when that day finally comes, I find comfort in knowing that we will have helped her achieve that independence. 

Our little Miss Beans has big dreams to dream and greatness to achieve.
So although it is a rather tempting desire, I most definitely do not want to keep her little.
*sniffle sniffle*

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Working Mom Update: One Year Later

November 12th is forever singed into my brain.
As the day I left my heart, my 12 week old baby, and went back to work.

I was enjoying my weekly chat with my expecting best friend in Rhode Island this past weekend. Amidst the giddy dreaming about all the exciting changes that are about to come her way, our conversation shifted into the trials and lessons that go along with working after baby. And I couldn't believe the words that came out of my mouth regarding the topic. That I was actually thankful for my time back at work as a teacher and that it made me a better mother. It's sort of the whole idea that without bad, we would never really recognize good. And how, after one of toughest years of my life, I'm able savor every moment I have with and fully appreciate my daughter.

It is absolutely amazing the difference one year can make.
I'm a better and stronger person.
Someone who's experienced tremendous growth and who is filled to capacity with thankfulness.
After reading the post I wrote exactly one year ago, my heart breaks for that girl.
The one who left the unexpected bliss of maternity leave to a year full of confusion and heartache.

No matter the situation, returning to work from maternity leave is hard. Even for those who are excited to get back to work. It's that daily grind, the speed at which the day travels {all with the added stress of a newborn who doesn't sleep through the night} that is enough to make anyone reach the verge of a psychotic breakdown.
But even once I got the hang of running on 5 hours sleep, the endless cleaning of bottles and laundry, the rushing around like a crazy person every morning, the figuring out how to maintain my milk supply, and the keeping up with lesson plans and after-school meetings, things still didn't get easier.
In fact, once I got more "comfortable" and into a solid routine of madness, I sank deeper into a sad, dark place.

Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I was at a crossroads of sorts. Not only was I trying to figure out how to be the mom I wanted to be, I was also facing the feeling in my gut that my childhood dream of teaching wasn't exactly what I'd always imagined it to be. But it was still something that I threw my entire self into, as I do with all things. Because I don't really know any other way than to try to excel in whatever it is I do. Besides, I didn't leave a successful career and go into debt simply to be an okay teacher. I dreamed of changing education and truly making a difference.

But all of that changed at 4:20 a.m. on August 19th, 2012.

Because after going back to work, my full attention, energy, and heart was being pulled in two opposite directions. By virtue of the inability to give my entirety to more than one thing, I was settling to be a mediocre teacher and a mediocre mom.

I'll never forget something one of my teammates said to me my first week back. I was venting my frustration over my feelings of mediocraty. She said to me, "Ang, you're an amazing teacher and mom. You'll just have to learn to wear different hats."

Although she was absolutely right, my heart instantly sank. Because at that moment, I knew I didn't want to wear different hats. I wanted only one hat. I didn't want to be a teacher by day and mom by night. Which for me was only for one hour each night as Lyla went to bed so early. One hour a night. And during that hour, my mind was often elsewhere, thinking of all the things that had to get done by the next morning.

I tried to let it go. If you can't change your situation, change your attitude was my mantra. Believe me, I tried. All the pep talks from my co-workers and family, encouragement from my husband, and compliments from parents and my principal did nothing to help with the confusion, anger, and sadness I felt.

I was sad because I missed my daughter and sad because I felt like I was forcing my passion for a career that I at one time was sure was my calling.  It was devastating to slowly say goodbye to a lifelong dream that wasn't exactly what I'd always pictured. Not to mention the fear and anticipation I felt for the upcoming school year as my district planned extreme changes. Changes that would increase my anxiety and cause me to see Lyla even less. Sadly, my fear wasnt for nothing as it's a struggle for many of my previous co-workers to keep their heads above water this year.

And I often get asked the question, Do you ever regret leaving teaching? 
Honest answer?
Not one bit.

These days, I am fully able to focus on the things that are important to me. The things that matter most.

So many admirable women are able to do it. To Lean In and make it all work. I admire these women tremendously, and at one time, I was sure that I would be one of them. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't quite figure out the whole balancing act. Or how to put 100% into two different loves. And in the end, I could no longer put into teaching what I wanted to, or what it {and my students} deserved.

Which brings us to today.
One year later.

My circumstances have changed since one year ago.
But I'm still a working mom.
I still deal with the daily grind and the morning blur.
I still deal with a fussy toddler after a long work day.
I still don't get nearly enough time with my babe in the evenings.
But at least I'm fully present this time around.
And I'm no longer defined by my profession.
I am defined by so much more.
I'm a wife. mother. friend. daughter. snuggler. laugher. doer. reader. goober.
And sadly, I truly felt like I was none of those things last year.

Like many of us who deal with hardships, I am now able to fully appreciate so much more after my yearlong struggles.
I not only value every moment spent with my daughter, but I have a deep respect, understanding, and true appreciation for teachers everywhere. Especially the good ones.

I'm beyond blessed and incredibly grateful that I was able to make a change in my personal situation.
I now work at a job I enjoy and that I'm able to completely leave at the end of the day.

Overall, I'm loving life.
Especially the simple, everyday moments.

By focusing on my family, I'm actually doing something I love.
Not doing what I always thought I was supposed to do.

And I am finally okay with that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Baby Gear: Life Savers

After three baby showers, one Christmas, one birthday, fourteen months of Miss Beans, and three sets of grandparents, we have accumulated a lot of baby crap stuff.

Stuff gives me anxiety.

This is why being an elementary teacher made me break out into hives on a semi-regular basis.
Paperwork, memos, paperclips, binders, kiddos' lost items, books, lesson plans, bulletin board letters, colored paper, whiteboards, lined paper, Kleenexes, post-its, and on and on and on.

And here we go with the hives.

So when it comes to baby gear, I obviously wanted the bare necessities. There were *and still are* only two requirements when it comes to baby gear in the Green household:

1. Economical and Practical. We do a lot of research before we buy anything big. We also look for the best deals. But we refuse to spend a ridiculous amount of money on something because somebody from consumer reports says it's the best. Or because it's from Pottery Barn. {I do love you, PB. I really do. But $2000 for a crib? Nuh-uh.}
2. Inconspicuous. We made it a rule the moment I got pregnant that we would really, really try to not have baby stuff take over. Of course there are little hints of Lyla in every room of our house, and of course things will get harder as she gets older and subsequently gets more stuff. But by no means will Lyla's things be the majority, and there will be a place for everything. We rule the house, not our child. {And definitely not her stuff}.

A little side-note, as I realize I sound like slightly like a tyrant. I may tremble in the face of clutter, but I sure can't say no to girly things. Or sweet little memorable things. My weakness is Etsy headbands, and they know me by name at Baby Gap. I mean, it's better to have 50 accessory options than baby gear out the wazoo. Who needs a car seat anyway?

Now that I sound like a big ol party-pooper, I'd like to share some of our very favorite baby gear. Of course we religiously used the usual baby gear like a boppyswing, and baby gym, but these are are items that were either suggested to us or things we wouldn't have otherwise thought of. All were true life savers. Most of them were useful for Lyla's entire first year of life, and some are still being used today. *My kind of stuff*

1. Baby Brezza. I probably wouldn't have spent money on something like this on my own. But my mom bought us one of these bad boys. It made making baby food incredibly easy, quick, and enjoyable. Sundays were baby-food making days, and I would just throw potatoes/veggies/fruits/meats in the Brezza, steam, blend, and pour into freezer trays. Easy peasy. I only wish I had gotten a bigger one!

2. Infrared heater. So this one did break the "inconspicuous" rule in that it's a little big for my liking. However, it was an absolute life saver last winter. Gabe and I are grizzly bears in that we turn our heat down to 55 at night because Gabe is indeed an actual furnace - true story. Most adults, let alone a baby, can't handle those sub-arctic temperatures. So, we bought a little heater for Lyla's room. It keeps her room nice and toasty AND because it's infrared, it doesn't dry the air out {winter alone takes care of that one} which can be hard for babes. One of the best purchases we've made by far.

3. Waterproof lap pads.  So. No one warned me how much newborns poo. For those of you first-timers, it's a LOT of poo. Well my cousin recommended these guys. And after a few days of using them, I went out and bought more. They're simply waterproof pads that I laid down before I changed Lyla's diaper: the floor, the couch, even her changing pad. Because the moment I wouldn't use a pad would be the moment Ly would go everywhere. I even placed them in her crib while she slept {big no-no, but a big life saver}. Otherwise I would have had to change her sheets every.single.day.

4. Moby Wrap. My dear, sweet Moby. I was a baby-wearing machine when Ly was first born. I'm not sure who loved it more! During Ly's colic days, the Moby was often the only solution to the never-ending screaming. I even busted it out a few weeks ago…with my toddler. And it's magic calming powers still worked, only this time, it broke my back.

5. Sleep Sheep. This thing was such a life saver. All mamas out there understand the desperate need to sleep, and in order to do so, you need a baby who sleeps. To help support our sleep training techniques, we used the sleep sheep. It's a super-cute sound machine with waves, a heartbeat {to help simulate the womb}, a sound I can't remember, and whales {yes whales. I think it's weird too.}

6. SwaddleMe Blanket. So I love Aden and Anais blankets just like Princess Kate and the rest of the western world. But I also like convenience and ease. Especially with a newborn. These little blankets were also helpful in our desperate desire to sleep. And Lyla really hated swaddling at first, but I'm pretty sure most babies do. You have to keep encouraging it. And once we got the whole swaddling thing down, Ly slept like a baby. These just allowed no-fuss swaddling.

7. Wubanub Pacifier. You couldn't have paid me to purchase something that goes by the name of Wub a Nub. So thank goodness a friend got this for me. This sweet little monkey soothed Ly when absolutely nothing else could. It was incredible. This was the only pacifier she would take. And once she turned about 6 months, she could see him and stick him back in her mouth. Pure genius!

8. Bouncer. I could go on and on and on about our bouncer. Although, it didn't really bounce. But that's beside the point. This little "seat" was the perfect place to put Lyla when I had to cook/clean/pump. We used this until she was about 9 months old. An absolute must {for us at least}.

Now that newborn-hood is a thing of the past, I'm able to look back and honestly say I would pick the same things we got on all fronts all over again.

There are a few things that I wish we would have purchased in addition to what we had.
That would have made life a little simpler.
Or would have made Lyla a little happier.

Some Wish-We-Would-Have-Hads:

1. Car seat cover. Luckily, we were able to borrow one of these from a friend. And we had no idea babies can't wear winter coats in their carseats. And obviously baby needs to stay warm while transporting to and from the car in the dead of winter. So this saved us - but only because we had generous friends who let us borrow!

2. Wipe warmer. Gabe would not agree with this one. He thinks wipe warmers are absurd. And it's definitely not a necessity. But all I know is that GiGi used to warm Lyla's wipes with her hands before wiping her bottom. And Baby Ly sure liked GiGi changing her diapers more than mom and dad.

3. Baby Bjorn. Yes we LOVED our Moby. But a Bjorn would have been a nice addition for once Lyla got older and heavier. They're just a little sturdier.

4. Nap Nanny. Well. Scratch that. As I went to look for a picture of a Nap Nanny, dozens of articles came up saying that these got recalled due to infant injuries and deaths. {However I have friends who swore by them}. It's just something portable that baby can nap in, and it's slanted which would have been helpful for Lyla's reflux/colic. We did, however, use scrap pieces of wood to raise her crib in those days. Worked like a *free* charm.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Baby Gear: A Personal Review on the Big Things

Remember when I said that 97% of my friends are pregnant?

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration.
However, it sure as heck feels that way.

It's so thrilling.
Preparing to meet all these pint-size versions of my friends.
Watching them experience the excitement and anticipation of expecting a first baby.
And taking notes from my friends who are on round #2.

We all know that with a baby, comes information overload.
It's enough to make your head spin.
Because much of this information is completely contradicting.
And it's almost impossible to decipher between fact and opinion.

I was talking to an expecting friend yesterday about how to figure out what items are actual musts for your little one.
But you see, that in and of itself is opinion.
And all moms, dads, and babies are different.
What one may love another may absolutely hate.

This is the beauty {and the curse} of a free market.
And all these opinions and choices can be incredibly frustrating for a new mama.

I remember being completely overwhelmed the very first time I walked into a Babies-R-Us.
Before I left, I immediately vowed to never step foot in one again.
And to this day, I don't know what half of these baby contraptions are.
And you know something? Lyla had a pretty good infant-hood without many of these "baby must-haves".

And I've been meaning to write a baby gear review post for…oh, about a year now.
Because when I was pregnant, I did a ton of research.
The google search engine nearly shut down because of all the research I did on baby products.
But the most useful reviews for me were those written by other moms.
Reading about their personal experiences helped tremendously.

And seeing that I've received three e-mails from friends within the last month asking for a detailed response in my preference on baby gear, I figured I would go ahead and write my year overdue post.
Since there is so much to cover, I'd like to break it up into a few posts.
Today, I'm going to focus on the BIG items.

There were a few simple prerequisites for our big ticket items:
1). Simple. With both of us working, we wanted convenience and simplicity.
2). Gender-neutral. We want (ed) them to last beyond Lyla. So, we didn't want to buy all pink and purple in case we have a little Gabe someday.
3). Economical but with quality. I will admit, we did splurge a little on the big things. Because again, we wanted them to last. And of course they had to pass all the safety guidelines.

*We were very lucky and received a lot of the big items as gifts, so we were able to spend a little more on the things we wanted…like our stroller. But I have to say, looking back, I wouldn't change anything. I would give everything we purchased or received 5 out of 5 stars and would buy them all again. We got so much use out of each of these items, and some we are still using!

1. Bob Revolution Stroller. We spent the most time researching and discussing strollers and car seats. And for us, we wanted them to be sort of one in the same, like a travel system. And since Gabe is a big runner, and I wanted to be able to do some heavy walking once I was in the clear, we splurged on a B.O.B. Yes, they may be a bit pricey, but completely and totally worth every single penny. These things are indestructible, and baby can't feel a single bounce - even on rough terrains {which I am aware we do not have in KS}. The only negative is that there isn't a ton of storage space and no cup holder for mama's water.

2. Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat. Our car seat was pretty much determined by our stroller as the B.O.B. is only compatible with several car seat brands. The most expensive brands *go figure* but also the top rated. We went with a Chicco Keyfit 30 and had to buy the Infant Car Seat Adapter in order to be able to attach the car seat to our stroller. And we also purchased three car seat bases - one for each of our cars and one for GiGi's car. This may seem like a lot, but it's much better than buying 3 carseats (like we had to once Lyla turned 1). The only thing I would change is the color. I wish we would have gotten black or gray, not putrid yellow.

3. Graco Pack and Play.  This has probably been the most used product we purchased. And we went with a less-expensive model. I know a lot of people use these at the foot of their beds (instead of purchasing a bassinet), and we used it for nap time in the beginning. I would just put Lyla in the living room while I cleaned the house. And we still use this thing at least 3 times a week. It allows us to take Lyla wherever we go - we just put her to sleep wherever we are and then pack up and go home when we're ready. And honestly, I don't think it really matters the brand you purchase. But we did go with one with a newborn napper which is helpful in the newbie days.

4. Angel Care Monitor. There are lots of opinions on monitors. But we LOVED the Angel Care Monitor. I remember first reading about it on a few friends' blogs. We opted not to spend the money on a video monitor (which some of our friends swear by) mostly because I feared I would never sleep because I'd be too distracted {which I didn't sleep anyway so I guess it wouldn't have mattered}. We felt more comfortable with this particular monitor because an alarm sounds if baby stops breathing. And since we chose to put Lyla in her crib beginning the very first night home, we wanted to be sure that we would be aware if she stopped breathing - something you don't get if baby is sleeping in a bassinet. Although we did get a few false alarms when she would roll off the pad - which caused for some middle-of-the-night heart attacks. Highly recommend though!

5. Nursery Chair. Ok. Not everyone makes such an investment in a nursery chair. {Then again, have you seen the prices on Pottery Barn nursery chairs?} But as I mentioned before, Lyla slept in her crib from day one, and I was a nursing mom. So, I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in that chair. We decided on a neutral Best Chair, Inc. glider and ottoman from Nebraska Furniture Mart. I couldn't find our exact model, but this one is close. We also opted to purchase the gliding ottoman. Best investment we made as I've spent more hours in that chair than anywhere else in my entire house. And it is *almost* as comfortable as our bed.

So there you have it.
My opinion on some of the bigger baby buys.
And honest-to-goodness, I really don't think it matters the brand of most of these items. It simply matters what's important to you and to your preferences.
But for us, we have no regrets on the choices we made.

Next time, I'll work up a post on my opinion on baby must-haves.

Have a fabulous week!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Happy Halloween

I feel a little sheepish this morning.
And believe it or not, pun completely unintended.

Last night was one of the best Halloweens I've ever had.
And we've had a lot of great Halloweens.

We went to our friends' house for the third year in a row.
Something we've done every Halloween since we moved back to Kansas.
A tradition of sorts.

It's so funny to look back at our first year.
No babies.
Just girls chatting over wine and a couple of "grown men" desperate to scare all the trick-or-treaters.

Then last year, we entered babies into the mix.
And what a hoot to see all these sweeties in mini costumes. To relive one of childhood's greatest joys through your own little one.
But they were babies. Babies who were still figuring out the world around them. Babies who couldn't talk or move a whole lot. Babies who needed nursed and comforted, and lots of sleep.
And they sure as heck couldn't understand why they were wearing fluffy and colorful outfits. And why all these strange creatures kept oohing and ahhing over them.

But this year.
A different story.
The babes interacted with each other, laughed, and lit up when they found the perfect piece of candy in the trick-or-treat bowl.
Little wagons were the method of transportation for the babes, while the adults tagged along with adult-beverage "treats" of their own.
We were an entire crew of characters walking through the neighborhood, laughing and taking plenty of pictures.
And we even added another baby to the mix this year - A little carrot.

Miss Beans was a lamb. And very last-minute, I decided to be Mary.
Mary had a little lamb.
And Gabe was...just-got-home-from-work dad. {After-work beer included}.

We ate good food and had adult conversations after putting *most* of the little ones to bed.
Lyla went into a chocolate-induced sleep coma not a second after 7:30.
And these conversations were so needed.
I am absolutely convinced that laughter truly fills the soul.
And we laughed a lot.
Therefore, my soul is completely filled.

So why do I feel sheepish?

I was a bit of a bah-humbug this week.
Just couldn't quite shake my funk.

I was sort of dreading Halloween.
{Insert head shake and sigh}
It was just one more thing to add to my already-dripping-off-the-sides plate.

I truly wish I could just be happy with going to Wal-mart and buying a pumpkin costume. At least they're perfectly manufactured and turn out looking like a pumpkin.
My goodness would that make my life so much easier.

But I never take the easy route.
Ever. Ever. Ever.

I'm stubborn.
And I have to make a costume.
And I was feeling sorry for myself that I don't have more time at home to do things like make a witty costume.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to go to Wal-Mart, get the cheapest things I could find, and bust out the hot glue gun and fabric scissors.
Because I don't sew. And I'm not crafty. {Just because I was an elementary teacher does not at all mean that we sat around and cut out construction paper shapes and built towers out of craft supplies. Contrary to popular belief}.
A couple of hot glue gun blisters and three seasons of Breaking Bad later, and I had the torso of my little sheep.

Halloween day rolled around, and I still hadn't figured out what Gabe and I were going to be.
I spent my lunch break picking up the chili fixins' for the evening, and I just ran out of time.

Until I had a thought - 2 hours before the party.

I rushed out of work at 4:30.
Picked up Lyla from daycare.
Changed her diaper, put on her costume, and fed her a snack.
I rummaged through my summer clothes, found some old ribbon buried in our gift wrap corner, and pieced together some sticks and crepe paper for my staff.
A coordinating costume: Mary had a little lamb.
With 3 minutes to spare!

Beans looked a little more like Martha Washington than a little lamb.
And her sheepskin was shedding and completely falling apart by the end of the night.

But everything turned out perfectly.
And I feel completely sheepish for even thinking that it would be anything otherwise.

It was a very Happy Halloween, and I'm already anticipating next year!