Making Time

I know that my presence on this site has been greatly diminished over the past few months.  While I still occasionally feel guilty about it, and I frequently wish that I was writing more, I have been focusing more on the theme of "making time."

So what have I been making time for?  I'm making time to be more present with EH - more active playing and interaction with him, instead of me trying to get him to play on his own while I catch up on the news and email on my phone.  I'm making more time to read, which I was sorely missing and is a good way for me to feel like I'm getting "me" time.  I'm making more time to cook actual meals, instead of throwing in a frozen pizza every night, and although my cooking efforts will not be anywhere near where they were a few years ago, I am trying to eat healthier and that involve cooking at home more often.  And finally - and this is the hardest one - I'm trying to make time for exercising.  This is usually the thing that is first to go.  I never seem to have the energy in the evenings, but we have a trip to Mexico booked for the summer and I want to make getting into shape more of a priority!

I certainly don't mean to imply that there aren't things going on over here!  EH is still a fascinating little seesaw of toddler emotions, going from saying the cutest, funniest things ever to full-blown toddler tantrum mode.  He's super into Legos and just started getting into playing "pretend" which I think it just too adorable.

Oh, and we're MOVING soon!  It's been a bit hush hush but this is happening sooner rather than later so I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag!

All of this is to say that I haven't forgotten about the blog, but I am trying to balance my priorities and sadly that means that this little blog here tends to fall at the bottom of the list.  But I do hope to post more about our new house, and get some pictures of EH up - he's getting so big!

The Pittsburgh Zoo in January = Awesome

I've lived in Pittsburgh for a long time, and I never had the idea to go to the zoo in the winter.  I didn't even know if they were open year round, and besides, the zoo just seems like a summer sort of thing.

But now we have an annual membership to the zoo, and I always insist on getting my moneys worth on things like that.  We also have a toddler who frequently has pent up energy to burn off, and we always hope that running around at the zoo for a few hours will wear him out (it usually doesn't.)

So, with warnings of wind chills as low as negative 40 degrees coming up in the next two days, we decided to get some outdoor time while we still could.  I had no idea what to expect from a January 5th visit to the zoo, but I return from the experience to report that it is definitely worth it (although not without it's share of cons.)

So, here are some of the pros and cons:

PRO: Almost no one there
If you hate crowds like we do, you'll love the zoo in the winter. There were no more than 50 cars in the entire parking lot - we literally felt like we parked at the front door and waltzed right in.


CON: They're only so so on the snow clearing
The cleared sections of their parking lots, but not the section we parked in.  They also cleared the main paths within the zoo, but not all of them, so if you want to go "off the beaten path" that will mean trekking through some snow.

PRO: Easy to see the animals
Since there wasn't a crowd, we could walk up to any of the animal exhibits and not worry about EH not being able to see.  And we didn't have to worry about him getting pushed by bigger kids, or knocked over by adults who weren't paying attention.  The lions, tigers, snow leopard, red panda, sea lions, polar bear, monkeys, meerkats, snakes, and black bear were among some of the highlights.






CON: Many exhibits closed
Except for the cats mentioned above, none of the African safari animals were out.  You could see the elephants indoors, but the smell was overpowering, and EH refused to go in.  The giraffes, rhinos, ostrich, and everything else related to the safari area were not out, and were not on display indoors.  This was disappointing because EH really wanted to see the giraffe.  The deer park was also closed, and since that's the usually path to some of the other animals - like the kangaroos - we weren't able to see any of those.  The sea otters exhibit and most everything in the outdoor "waters edge" area was empty.


PRO: Fresh, crisp air
And no sweat pouring off of my skin, like it is in the summer!  It was actually really nice to be comfortable wearing a winter hat and gloves - I also get too hot when we're there in the summer!  Also there are plenty of indoor spaces (elephant house, monkey house, aquarium, etc) so if you get cold you can easily go inside and still be entertained!

CON: Most concessions not open
This actually didn't bother us since we never eat there and never buy anything in the shops, but if you enjoy this sort of convenience, nearly everything was closed.


And finally, the biggest PRO of our January trip!!!!

Penguins on Parade!
The penguins were out and about in the snow when we arrived, and it was so neat to watch them playing around.  Once kept going down on his stomach like he wanted to try to slide around.  Most just waddled around but they were all really adorable. EH was weirdly not impressed, but I was loving it - the penguins are so adorable!





So, in conclusion - even considering all of the cons listed above - we highly recommend visiting the zoo during the winter.  The entrance fee is discounted (probably because there are fewer animals out) if you don't have a membership and will be paying cash.  The animals that are out are easy to see and very entertaining.  There's no pushing or crowds, and in some sections you feel like you have the entire zoo to yourself.  It was in the mid-30s when we were there and it seemed like the perfect temperature (although DH was cold in only his sweatshirt, EH and I both felt great in our winter coats.)  The winter animals, like the penguins and the polar bear, are much more active and it's neat to see them in a climate that more resembles their natural habitat, compared to the summer when you can tell that poor polar bear is sweltering in the heat. 

We will definitely visit the zoo again this winter (although it will NOT be in the next two days, when these freezing temperatures are predicted.)  Stay warm everyone!

My Son Hates Santa

In retrospect, I should have known it would go poorly. 

We were at a friends house, and EH was just getting settled in playing in the living room with the other kids.  We were standing in the back of the room, and every couple of minutes he would look for us, call "Mama" and then run over to me and drag me to the toy area.  I was always successful at getting him started with a new toy and then quietly walking away, but we were only there for about 15 minutes before "the event" and so I really should have known.

We heard the jingle bells approaching and everyone in the room stood up and started walking towards the doorway.  This meant that EH's view of us was now obstructed and there were strange noises happening. He started yelling "Mama? Mama?" and running towards us, and you could hear the panic building in his voice.  But there were a lot of people to walk through, and even though I was heading towards him as well, he rounded a corner just in time to come face-to-face with the big man himself, and seriously, you would have thought that someone hit him with a taser gun or something equally as crazy, based on the chaos that ensued.

He started wailing - and by wailing, I mean WAILING - and I quickly scooped him and took him to the other room.  But he was nearly inconsolable, and didn't even want to be held.  This meant that the next ten minutes or so looked a lot like this.


And sometimes like this.


He would momentarily calm himself down, and then suddenly remember the monstrosity that he had just encountered and the sobbing would start all over again. 

We tried to talk to him in soothing tones about "Santa" and all the stuff that goes along with Santa, but he wasn't having any of it.  "Ahhhh!!! I no like Santa!!!" was all he would say for a considerable amount of time. 

At one point when he had calmed down a bit, I carried him into the room, but he immediately started crying again.  So back out we went.  "I no like Santa," he stated again, quite firmly. 

Once, Mrs. Claus even approached EH to give him a coloring book, but the ear piercing wailing quickly scared her away.

So while the other kids sat on Santa's lap, told him what they wanted, got candy canes and coloring books from Mrs. Claus, and then sat in a circle listening to stories? 


We watched.



From the back of the room.






And even then he considered that to be far too close to those terrifying red and white people.  "I no like Santa!" he reminded us. 


All conversations went something like this:
EH: "I no like Santa, Dada.  You like Santa?"
DH: "Oh yes, EH, I like Santa very much?"
EH: *curious head-tilted stare that clearly stated "You're crazy, dada."* "I no like Santa."

So, needless to say, EH did NOT sit on Santa's lap.  He didn't tell him what he wanted for Christmas and he didn't get a candy cane from Mrs. Claus.  She did leave a coloring book for him, but we ended up forgetting that, and I'm not sure that he would have touched it anyway, since he knew who it came from.  We purposefully dressed him up in one of his nicest sweaters and we brought the good camera because we thought FOR SURE we were going to the best Christmas-card worthy photo of EH and Santa ever. 

It is comical how OH SO WRONG we were about that. I am fairly certain that EH will forever be traumatized from that experience, and I think it quite possible that if we tell him who brought his Christmas morning presents, he will abandon them all together, because if we learned one thing from that night, it is that EH "no like Santa."

But after Santa left?


Right back to being a cute, friendly, charming, cheesy-smiling, talkative, and cute-as-ever toddler. 

Him and Santa just weren't meant to be.

Fall Fun in the Leaves!

Raking leaves (or rather, blowing leaves) hasn't been a ton of fun in the past.  It's still a lot of work, but having EH around to enjoy the leaves has made the work much more enjoyable.

We had beautiful weather this past weekend, and he had a blast playing in the leaves!


He loved picking the leaves up and throwing them in the air.  There was a nice breeze that allowed them to catch a little and blow and he thought that was greatest. 






He spent some time jumping in the leaf pile with his dada (who acquired a tick in the process, but thankfully they left EH alone) and obviously had a blast.



If that's not a look of pure toddler joy, I'm not sure what is!!!






And at the end of the day we let him try on the leaf blower, and I'm not sure that he could have looked prouder than he did walking around holding onto that leaf blowing tube.  It may have resulted in a huge tantrum when we finally forced him to go inside, but it was worth the cutest and the smile at the time.

After 2+ years of wanting him to have fun in the leaves we were so glad that this was finally the year!

Providence

Last week I was in Providence, Rhode Island for a conference for work.  Although I didn't get to see a whole lot of the city other than a quick driving tour from my sister-in-law, I did have an amazing view out of my hotel window.

19th floor of the Omni hotel, overlooking downtown Providence

DH played single-daddy that week and it is an understatement to say that things did not go well for him.  I think both daddy and son were glad to have mommy back.  It also didn't help that it was a crazy busy week for DH, with travel on both weekends surrounding the week I was gone.

I like traveling for work, mostly since I only have to do it once or twice a year, and I enjoy having a chance to visit new places in the country including San Diego, Forth Worth, and now Providence.  But having a toddler definitely makes it more challenging, and I did miss the little guy.  However, I'm hopeful that I can continue to go away whenever the opportunity to presents itself since I do think it's always a good experience!  After all, I'm probably never going to stay at a fancy Omni hotel on my own dime!

Same view, but at night

Providence is a cute little town, and it had a city feel while also seeming really clean and friendly.  Perhaps some day I'll have a chance to go back and visit with more free time.  But all in all, I enjoyed my time in Providence!


Halloween 2013 - Still no candy!

For the third Halloween of his existence, EH did not go trick or treating.  We were all ready to take him this year, but it was raining like crazy and since he didn't know what he would be missing - and since it would still be more for us than for him - we decided to stay home.

We practiced carrying around his pumpkin the weeks before


But his Halloween costume didn't totally go to waste!  This past weekend we had our annual "Fakesgiving," when DH's side of the family gets together to celebrate Thanksgiving prior to the event itself, allowing us to celebrate Thanksgiving with both sides of the family without any conflict.  The morning after Fakesgiving we put all of the cousins in their costumes and set out on a hayride in the back of a truck - except that EH refused to get into the back, and insisted on sitting up front.



Have I mentioned that we are deep in the middle of the terrible twos?

Have you ever seen a serious monkey driving a four wheeler? I have.

EH's penchant for throwing tantrums means that we are often those parents who have to remove their screaming toddler from the restaurant or wherever we may be.  It also means that all of the other children nearby walk away looking like saints compared to the devilish child that EH becomes when he's in full blown tantrum mode.

But when he's dressed like a monkey, it's hard to stay mad at him for long.... especially when he's a monkey driving a tonka truck.  Too cute. 



On this particular day, EH's tantrum resulted from him wanting to be the ONLY one driving the little tonka truck, and our insistence that he takes turn.  Have I also mentioned that he's not very good at sharing?


So, I promise you that he was a cute little monkey, even though I couldn't get him to stand still to pose for a photo.  His little cousins were an owl and a bunny this year.


One of these years I'm sure that EH will go trick-or-treating, and I figure from that point on, there is no going back, so I'm glad that we were able to avoid the rain but still get to enjoy our little monkey!

Big Boy Bed

About two weeks ago EH's sleeping habits started to take a turn for the worst.  This coincided nicely with the timing of when DH decided that it was time to take away the num-num (EH's name for his pacifier.)  I say that "DH decided" because I really was against the idea of taking the num num so cold turkey, without any advance notice or thought.  It was really hard on EH, and on me.  And then of course THIS coincided nicely (NOT) with EH developing a cold.  So, not only was he not sleeping because he was sad about his num num, but now he was waking up in the middle night because of a coughing fit and he had no way to soothe himself back to sleep. This meant that I was waking up multiple times per night to soothe him and rub his back, and DH was spending 30 to 60 minutes in his room each evening because now that the num nums were gone EH didn't want to go to sleep unless one of us was in the room with him (which always resulted in him wanting to play instead of sleep.)  I quickly lost all patience with all of this and one night I alllllmost gave him a num num in the middle of the night, until DH agreed to take night duty the next night.

Needless to say, the past couple of weeks have been a big hot mess when it comes to toddler sleep.

So, where was I going with this?

Well, shortly after the num num's went "all gone" and the cold symptoms alleviated a little, EH decided he didn't want to sleep anymore.  He wouldn't fall asleep on his own, which was devastating to me because he had always been so good about going to sleep without needing us there.  On top of all of this he was napping poorly - sometimes only 30 minutes, which resulted in a very cranky toddler come evening.  He would wake up in his crib and just start screaming - he almost never fell back asleep (which almost always happened when he had a num num.)  He also started to swing his leg over the rail of his crib.  He never jumped out, but he was always close.

So around this time my mom was asking about where EH would sleep once he no longer fit (or would tolerate, in his case) the pack and play.  I pulled out the toddler travel bed that we purchased that is essentially a foam floor bed.  It rolls up into a bag about the size of a pack and play, and can just be rolled out onto the floor.  It's really quite cute.

When we pulled this bed out, EH started playing and laying on it, and I decided that it was time to see how he would do sleeping outside of the crib.  He was interested in this new bed, and I talked to him about sleeping in a big boy bed.  That day for his nap (it was a Sunday) he laid down on that floor bed, didn't fuss, didn't cry, and then proceeded to sleep for three hours and fifteen minutes.

Hallelujah!!!!

With that sort of success I said "Screw the crib!" and that night at bedtime we did the normal routine - milk, books, teeth brushing - and then went back into EH's room.  I set him down on the floor instead of putting him in his crib and asked him where he wanted to sleep.  He plopped down on the floor bed, I covered him up, gave him a kiss, and left.  I put a gate up outside of his door in case he decided to start wandering around but it wasn't necessary - he didn't make a peep, and he slept straight through the night!!!! It was a amazing!

The floor bed itself is a cute green and brown design that happens to match his room perfectly, but I put a pee pad down and a sheet to protest - good thing, because he leaked out that night!


Those results have continued over the past week, and the floor bed has been a godsend.  I know that some of the success is simply related to the novelty of this new bed, since he's been getting increasingly confident about the fact that he can just get up and walk around him or to the door.  But for the few nights that he slept great, it was all worth it.

We finally decided to buy a toddler rail for his crib and we removed the front crib rail last night.  We talked a lot about sleeping in a big boy bed, and I even read him an Elmo book on the subject.  He seemed excited about it and kept talking about the "big boy bed" but when we went back in the room after brushing his teeth, he seemed afraid of the toddler bed, and instead decided to sleep on his floor bed again.  I didn't want to push the issue so I let him be.

He woke up early this morning crying around 5:45, and I went in and rubbed his back.  He fell back asleep and when I went into wake him up at 7 a.m. he was in his "big boy bed!"  I laughed out loud and took this picture (which was taken in complete blackness - the camera on my phone is awesome!)



He apparently decided that he was ready to try out his "big boy bed" for real. 

I love the floor bed, and I would keep using it forever if it meant that he would continue to be this dream ofa  sleeper.  BUT, if he happens to decide that he wants to sleep in his big boy bed I would be thrilled, since the floor bed takes up quite a chunk of space on his floor!

In case anyone is wondering, the floor/travel bed is the Leachco Bumpzzz Travel bed.  The zipper on the bag of the first one we received broke off the first time we tried it, so I was initially super annoyed, but their customer service department was quick and easy to deal with and they sent me a replacement bag within a couple of days, so I still highly recommend the bed, especially since he's had such amazing results sleeping on it!

We have a few weekends coming up that are going to involve travel and most likely (now that he probably won't want to use the pack and play) him having to sleep in this bed.  So, I'm glad that he's used to it and hopefully he shouldn't have any transition issues!