Merry Christmas from EH

Smocks are Freakin' Cute

This past weekend we took EH to the Children's Museum.  EH is definitely on the young side now to really get the most out of the place, but he still had a great time. For example, in the room with all of the wheels where kids were riding in fake Smart Cars and driving magnetic cars up ramps, EH got the biggest kick out of sitting on the step stools meant for the short kids to reach certain exhibits.  He sat down. He stood up.  He smiled. He loved it.  It's the little things, right?

Other things he loved?

The Mister Rogers tree.

The giant tire.

He loooved the seed table.

It was hard to peel him away from that thing and I seriously started thinking I needed to get him a seed table! But then he started eating the seeds and a girl next to him started throwing seeds all over the floor and I was like, "Yeah, never mind on that seed table.  We'll leave that for the museum."

But what EH loved most of all was the Water Play room. This kid in a smock is seriously the cutest thing ever.

And as if you needed more evidence, here are two videos of him playing in the Water Play room. I fully recognize that these are probably things that only a parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle would appreciate, but since I know some of those people are out there reading this, this is for you!

Video #1

And Video #2

Yes, we did take his pants off and let him walk around in his shoes and onesie.  You can see it sagging off of his bum from it being wet.  We depantsed him because we wanted to put semi dry pants on him when we left (even though he got them wet within seconds) and we had a sweatshirt that we were going to use as his top.  It was a little bit trashy and a whole bit cute and he just had a blast. 

After he played with the hoses he then spent a significant amount of time by the pool scooping water up with a cup and then dumping it on the ground.  As long as he knows that's only allowed at the museum, then we're good.  Otherwise I'm going to have a really wet bathroom floor tomorrow during bath time.

In summary, we had a great time at the Children's Museum. It's a little pricy if you're paying full price ($26 for 2 adults and 1 "under 2" year old) but we had purchased a buy one get one Groupon so it only cost us $13.  It's definitely something worth doing every couple of months because I'm sure he's going to discover new things every single time he goes!

Stupid Picasa

So I tried to upload some pictures this evening and Blogger tells me that my 1 gb of "Picasa Web Albums" storage is full.  So I go to Picasa web albums and delete at least a half dozen massive albums, some containing over 100 pictures each, thinking that will get me down to below quota and allow me to upload 3 measly pictures of my cute kid.

But no, even after all of that deleting, it's still telling me I don't have any more storage, and it wants me to buy storage.  This is stupid.  I know I have space - is google just trying to make money off of me?  How can I actually get Picasa to recognize and admit to the fact that I deleted hundreds of photos, so I should be allowed to upload 3 new ones???? I know that some people post WAY more pictures than I do to their blogger blogs - are all of those people really paying a monthly fee to be able to do that??? I can't imagine so..

Anyway, I will continue to investigate but if you have a quick solution, PLEASE let me know! Otherwise, this blog will be even more boring than it already has been lately!

What's wrong with this tree?

The answer - no ornaments on the bottom half. 

The reason - a toddler who has suddenly decided that he will get into EVERYTHING!

At first it was cute, now it's annoying. But I guess I should be grateful that he hasn't pulled the tree down on himself, right?

(knocking on wood)

Loving Leaves

Pittsburgh saw lovely fall weather this evening, which allowed us to spend plenty of time playing outside, something that EH hasn't gotten enough of.  DH did some leaf blowing, and saved a little pile for EH to play in, although the title of this post is probably not appropriate since EH didn't really love playing in the leaves.

But I did.  And he loved walking around them enough that I'll call it a success, and I'm sure next year he'll be even more enthusiastic.

This was a weekend at home, and since there was little on the agenda we got a ton done, including finally getting my summer clothes packed up and into the attic and my sweaters and winter clothes into the closet, 5 loads of laundry (4 of which were mine, and 1 of which was EH's) and plenty of other small around the house projects.  It's leave us slightly cleaner and slightly more prepared for hosting Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, something I haven't done for three years now!

EH is excited - last Thanksgiving he was sick with a horrible ear infection.  This year he's not only going to be healthy but he's going to get eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing - all foods that I know he's going to love!  I'm took nearly 200 pictures this weekend (making up for the month that I took none at all) so I'm going to try to post a few of the highlights over the next couple of days!

One Fresh Thanksgiving Turkey

From what I understand, the animal kingdom operates a little differently than mankind does.  One of the biggest differences (aside from oppose-able thumbs and higher-level thinking) is that the female tends to be the less impressive gender.  The males are always spending time fluffing their feathers, strutting around in their bright colors, and in general doing everything they possibly can to attract females (ok, so maybe that aspect isn't all that different.)

But here's what I'm not sure about the animal kingdom - does the number of females that you attract give you higher statue?  Is an animal that has attracted a following of 19 females better than one who only has 5 ladies following him around?

If so, this turkey that visited our yard yesterday, might be the king of all turkeys.

He had 19 - actually, there were really too many to count, so I will correct that to say at least 19 - female turkeys following his every move.  If he started moving in one direction, they skittishly followed.  If he didn't seem concerned then they weren't either.

It's hard to really see in the picture above just how many turkeys there really are, but take my word for it - there were a lot.  And the big guy was definitely the only male.

I am not a hunter, and in general don't advocate the killing of animals (except for anyone who wants to come down and take care of the deer that keep eating our plants,) but I would be lying if I didn't admit that the following thought crossed my mind - "That bird would make for one fresh Thanksgiving turkey."

No worries though.  He and his entire harem of women made were left unharmed.

Also, after comparing a female turkey to a male turkey, I have to wonder if all of the turkeys we eat are male?  Those female birds don't look like they would have much meat at all, and male turkeys are definitely more attractive than the females.

We Voted (barely)

We voted tonight, but it wasn't easy, or pleasant or anything that I ever wish to repeat.  Taking a one year old and having to wait for nearly 90 minutes and having that wait extend into bed time was one of the least pleasant experiences of EH's existence.

I almost walked away.  EH was screaming inconsolably, it was hot, I was cranky, my back and my knees hurt from bouncing him in the baby carrier.  I had the keys in my hand. And then he quieted enough to convince me to wait a few more minutes.

We made it. But I hated every minute of it, and I am soooo glad it's over.

The tv ads, the phone calls, the junk mailings.  Does anyone think that stuff works? The long lines at polling places - how have we not come up with a more efficient way to move people more quickly through the lines? It frustrates me, and to be quite honest, if DH hadn't pushed me, I would have walked away.

But I didn't. And while you won't hear me raving about how excited I am to have have "exercised my right as an american," I will say that I'm glad it's over and done with, and it is funny to me how much DH enjoys watching these results come in.

So, if you voted, I say "way to go!" But if you didn't, and especially if you have a toddler, I don't judge you at all, and I am - in fact - jealous of the probably calm evening you probably had. Your vote does matter, but your sanity matters more, and I know that I nearly lost mine.

Go America.

A Work-Out-Of-Home Mom's Routine

Over the past two weeks DH and I have been working on a new routine. Previously our schedules and preferences were very different and

DH used to wake up at 5 a.m. and I would snooze until about 5:30 or whenever he was out of the shower.  He would then work on school stuff or put dishes away until 6:30 when I was ready to go (he stays as back up in case EH would happen to wake up early.)  When I vowed to start exercising again I resumed my previous routine from a year ago of exercising around 8 p.m.  This worked well because usually by that time EH is in bed for the night.  DH said he had trouble sleeping after night exercising though, so for a day or two he tried exercising in the morning and I woke up earlier to shower so that he could still fit in a shower after me.

But that didn't last for long.  Although DH likes to believe that he is a morning person, I believe that it takes a special type of person to roll out of bed and immediately start working out, and DH was struggling with that as well.  So we came up with this new schedule, and it's been working well for us so far.

It looks like this:

5:15 a.m. - My alarm goes off, waking us both up
5:24 a.m. - My 9 minute snooze cycle ends and I get out of bed and into the shower
During this time DH does things like put dishes away or do lesson planning
6:10 a.m. - I am done in the bathroom and DH goes in
6:15 a.m. - I work on prepping EH's food for the day, usually cutting up a banana (1/2 for morning, 1/2 for evening), putting yogurt in a cup and making sure he has food for lunch. I also get his bottles ready for day care and get my own breakfast and lunch ready.
6:35 a.m. - DH leaves for the day; I get EH's morning bottle ready
6:40 a.m. - I go into EH's room to wake him up; often times he is already awake and just playing quietly in his crib, although sometimes I have to wake him
6:45 a.m. - Change EH's diaper, get him dressed for the day, with bib, socks, etc, and then we start his morning bottle
7:05 a.m. - Done with the morning bottle; he plays or follows me around while I get dressed
7:15 a.m. - Pack up my bag and EH's bag and put them in the car
7:20 a.m. - Start to get him in his car seat, at which point he usually poops; diaper change
7:25 a.m. - Out the door for the day (this is a little later than I'd like to leave, but it's how it's been going lately)
7:40 a.m. - Drop EH off at day care
7:45 a.m. - On the road to work
8:15/8:20 a.m. - Arrive at work and start the day

In the afternoon:
4:30 p.m. - DH picks EH up from day care
5:30/5:45 p.m. - I usually arrive home from work, as long as traffic wasn't too horrible
5:45 p.m. - Start making dinner, and prep EH's dinner food (usually a combination of the other half of the banana or some veggies along with whatever we're having.)
6:30 p.m. - DH does the dishes while I play with EH; sometimes we'll play in his room and I'll tidy up or do other things, other times I'll just focus on playing
7:00 p.m. - Start filling the bath tub if it's a bath night, followed by a bath
7:20 p.m. - Get EH's night time bottle ready; put on jammies and get his crib ready (clean up the stuffed animals, fluff his pillow, make sure there is a blanket nearby and a "blankie.")
7:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. - Start the bedtime bottle, depending on his level of fussiness.  As soon as he starts showing signs of being tired, he is whisked off to bed.
8:15 p.m. - DH and I head downstairs for our evening workout.
9:00 p.m. - Workout over; head upstairs to get ready for bed and read.
9:30 to 10:00 p.m. - Ready until we get drowsy and then fall asleep.

As you can see, there's not a whole lot of quality time in there for spending with EH, but we try to make the most of the time that we do have.  Last night, for example, we had a quick dinner of frozen pizza and then went to the park instead of playing at home. There's also zero time for anything else that isn't already on this schedule.  So, if I need to do my laundry or make food for Evan in the evening, then that usually means less playtime or less reading time (for folding laundry or something like that.)  It can be stressful, having such a strict routine that doesn't allow for much variance.  But in a way it's also helpful for all of us - we know what to expect and what comes next, and much like EH, we appreciate the sense of order that it brings to our lives.

14 Months Old

EH is 14 months ago, and he just keeps getting more amazing.

Those people who have infants and say they don't want them to grow? They're crazy.  Those people made me worry that once EH started crawling or walking that I would go crazy keeping up with him, and that I'd miss the infant years.  But that has not been the case.  I LOVE the toddler months, and I wouldn't trade this in for anything.

Does he get into everything, including bathroom drawers, kitchen cabinets, dresser drawers, and everything on top of anything he can reach?  Absolutely.  But we just have to be smarter than him - keeping the doors closed to rooms we don't want him in and keeping things off of end tables and night stands.  Easy enough. 

He is so smart.  So. Stinking. Smart.  It blows me away.  He will repeat almost anything that we say, and learns new words on a daily basis.  Right now at daycare they are working on learning the sounds that each letter makes, and he's already mastered H, T, and M and a bunch more that I don't remember.  When I ask, "Are you hungry?" He usually says, "Mmmm mmmm mmmm" to indicate yes and when I say, "Ok, go get in your chair," he walks over to his high chair and tries to climb into it.

He regularly says "more" when he's eating something that he likes.  And he still has not developed a taste for meat of any sort, including chicken and turkey.

When you give him a bowl and a spoon he stirs around the imaginary food and then holds out the spoon to you to "eat."  If you ask him where his tongue is he'll stick it out.  If you ask him where his nose is he'll point to it (or his ear, he gets those two confused pretty regularly.)  

When it's time for bed he comes into the kitchen to watch me make his bottle and then when he sees that I'm almost finished to starts walking back the hall to his room and stands by the rocking chair and waits for me. 

The say that toddlers appreciate routine because it's predictable for them and they know what to expect, and that couldn't be more true for EH.  While there are rare occasions (mostly on weekends) when his strict schedule can feel somewhat limiting, the majority of the time the schedule works like a dream for us, and I don't think there is anything about it that I would change (other than the time when I get home from work, which is far too late in the evening, in my opinion, but sadly something that I have no control over.)

14 months.  I can say with certainly that THIS so far is my favorite age ever.  

Baby Weight Loss Failure

Ok.  So, here's where I sit down, take a deep breath, and admit a really hard thing - I totally failed at losing weight after my baby was born.

I lost less than 10 pounds after my delivery of EH, which was a disappointing percentage of the 34 pounds that I had gained.  But, over the next couple of week, most of it melted away.  Between breastfeeding and being so sleep deprived that I was eating really poorly, that early weight loss came fairly easily.  At 5 weeks post-partum I had lost 17 pounds, or half of the weight I had gained.

By 6 months or so I weighed in at 153!!! Awesome right??? Except that as of today, I weigh 162.5 which is nearly 10 pounds up from that 153 mark.  So where did things do wrong?

As I mentioned above, in those early weeks with a newborn - we'll say months 0 through 3 - feeding your child and getting him to sleep is what you spend 95% of your time doing.  That leaves very little time for something like feeding yourself, unless you have someone taking care of that for you, and I did not.  I believe that the world is divided into two groups - those who chose to eat, and those who chose to sleep.  When and if deprived of both food and sleep, which would you chose?  I always choose sleep, and I am sure that in those days my calories in were far less than my calories out, which is the perfect formula for weight loss.

During months 3 to 6 I think that the sleep thing gets much better for a lot of people.  But in our case, EH was very very sick during those three months, because of all of the illnesses and infections he was getting from day care.  Even though I was back at work full time by this point, I still spent many, many nights awake with EH, rocking him to sleeping, giving him antibiotics and trying to suck the snot from his nose with those bulb things so that he could attempt to breathe.  It was awful.  I was too overwhelmed to cook most of the time and once again, I was losing weight simply because I was choosing to sleep instead of eat whenever I could.  That's how I got down to 153.

Then we pulled EH out of day care and he started going to A-Care (a woman watching him in her own home.)  This was a turning point in his health and his development, as he was finally able to start catching up developmentally with other 6 month olds, something he couldn't do when he was sick for 3 months.  He started eating better and sleeping better and this finally meant that things started to get on a somewhat normal schedule for us.

After over 6 months of feeling that I never had a moment to breathe, I took full advantage of this change!  I started cooking dinners again (although somewhat reluctantly, even now) and once EH was asleep for the night, we started soaking up the quiet time by sitting in the living room and having a drink or a snack.  It was soooo nice to enjoy a Blue Maui and just not do anything. I loved it.

And that really became our routine.  We started going out to eat more frequently and an evening libation was just part of the schedule.  Of course, having a drink in the evening isn't a bad thing, but honestly sometimes I would have two or three, and I wasn't eating very well and you better believe I was NOT exercising at all.

That's how it snuck up on me.  Slowly.  An ounce here, a half pound there.  I wasn't weighing myself regularly and so I wasn't keep tabs on things, but I started to notice that my pre-pregnancy clothes still didn't fit right (and many will never fit right again anyway, stupid hips.)

So here I am - with a nearly 14 month old baby and 12.5 pounds of "baby" weight still hanging on, mostly in my stomach region.

And today is when I start making changes.

Life with a toddler hasn't gotten any easier, and there are still way too many things to juggle and get everything done, but some things need to become priority now, and the main thing is exercising.

My goal is to work out at least 3 times per week for 45 minutes - that's basically one TV episode without commercials on HULU.  4 times would be ideal though.  At least one night needs to be spent picking up and/or cleaning the house, and the other two nights can be at our discretion (many weekends we'll be traveling so there's no sense in scheduling those days for a particular activity - that would just guarantee failure.)

I am going the painfully embarrassing route of telling the world how much I weigh so that you can cringe with me now and cheer me on in a few months when I come back to "weigh in" - hopefully with a much MUCH lower number.  I am not proud of my failed attempt to lose my baby weight, but I am proud of my myself for admitting it publicly and vowing to make a change and I hope that within a few weeks I'll have positive news to share.  I've battled these demons before, and I know I can do it again with a little willpower!

Today is Wednesday, but I've already successfully worked out two times this week, so I am off to a good start.  Let's just hope it continues!

The Name of the Game

With toddlers, "change" is the name of the game, and EH is no exception.  Every day it's something new - a new word, a new mannerism, a new skill we didn't know he had. The other day DH tapped his finger on the table top as he was telling a story to making his point, and EH started doing the same.  The Parrot.  Last weekend the Daredevil also made his appearance when EH was trying to run - a maneuver he hasn't quite mastered yet - and he fell, ramming his super sharp bottom teeth into his upper lip causing a massive amount of bleeding, swelling, and sadness for all involved.  There are some changes - the injuries, for sure - that we aren't really ready for at all. 

And at the same time DH and I are learning how our lives need to change to accommodate EH.  Two weeks ago we took him to a restaurant.  It was a place that had closed for renovations and had recently reopened so we wanted to check it out.  In retrospect, we should have known - it was too crowded and the tables were too small for a toddler and two adults.  EH wanted to touch everything - our hot plates, our drinks, the woman behind him who was so close he could grab her cane.  It was a nightmare for us and he hated it too - he yelled and fussed most of the time.  After that experience DH claimed to everyone he talked to that we may have reached the point where we can no longer take EH out to eat with us.

But last weekend we went out again. We hadn't been out since that last meal two weeks ago and we needed it.  We decided to go to a mexican restaurant that we knew was fairly kid friendly.  At 6 p.m. on a Saturday night we were surprised to find that it was less than half full, and on this beautiful fall evening there was no one sitting outside on their patio, so we had the patio to ourselves.  EH was his usual loud and somewhat messy self, but we didn't have to worry about it, so we enjoyed ourselves instead of stressing about it. Our waitress thought he was adorable and didn't mind his mess at all, and when we were done eating we let him walk around and explore while we finished our drinks. It was relaxing and wonderful and we had a great time.

Now we know - we can still go out to eat, but we need to go to places that aren't too crowded and places where we don't have to over-worry about him being a little messy or making noise.  He's a toddler, and we can't control everything that he does, but we do know that he's a great baby as far as babies go. 

Similarly, we learned last week that he no longer sleeps well in the car and that we should, whenever possible, avoid the need for him to do that. He's a crib baby now, a tried and true stomach sleeper, something that just can't happen in the car.  And trying to force that just makes for a miserable ride for everyone involved.

Speaking of change, the leaves are changing so quickly that I think they might be at their peak of color around here.  The first picture in this post was taken on September 28th.  The second picture a mere 10 days later but there is so much less green, and so much more yellow and red.  EH has been loving playing around, exploring on his own two feet, picture up acorns and rocks and sticks and everything a boy should enjoy.  Fall is such a fun season and hopefully next weekend it will be dry enough so that we can blow the leaves into a big pile and let EH play in them.

Florida Vacation - Key Largo

Visiting the Florida Keys was something I really really wanted to do on our vacation.  Even though it was a three hour drive to Key Largo - the largest key closest to mainland Florida - we (I) decided it was worth the drive.

So, on our fourth day Naples, we packed up the car and headed out bright and early for Key Largo.  We drove across the state, from the west coast to the east coast, and then headed south past Miami.

The keys are the closest thing that the mainland US has to a tropical paradise.  Google "Florida Keys" on Google Maps and look at the satellite view - totally gorgeous blue water speckled with little islands.  It was totally up my alley.

Since snorkeling was high on my list of to-dos in Key Largo we headed to John Pennekamp State Park, which is a state park that is 99% (or so) completely underwater.  That much became evident when we went to the "beach" area.  It was tiny, and mostly rock.  Nowhere to put a beach umbrella for shade and you couldn't walk out into the water without shoes or significant discomfort.

We went to sign up for a snorkeling trip only to find that they were already completely booked for the day.  This was disappointing for me because I had read that during the summer you didn't really need reservations since it was the low season, so I hadn't even attempted to make reservations in advance.  We put our names on the stand-by list for a 3 p.m. boat, and were told to check back at 1:50 to see if there were any cancellations.

We were the first names on stand by so I felt good about that and we moved forward assuming that we would get on the boat.  Of course, this meant that we now had about 50 minutes to kill, so we drove to another section of rock beach and went for a little swim.  Again, this was painful because of all of the rock and coral.  It definitely was not a traditional "beach" - there wasn't any sand! I think that's because of the way it's protected from mangrove forests - there are zero waves.  The water is just flat and calm.  It was crystal clear though, in a way that I've never seen before.

We swam for awhile and then sat in the shade at a picnic bench, catching up on emails and facebook from our phones.  When it was time to check in for our stand-by snorkeling trip, we headed back to the registration desk where they confirmed that we were able to get onto the boat.  The girl at the counter was like, "Yay! You made it!" and I repeated her "Yay."  What I realize now that she was trying to psyche us up for the craziness that she knew would ensue once we boarded that boat, because by our horrible luck, we ended up two of the only 5 adult on a boat full of 8 year olds who were part of a summer camp.  The snorkeling was gorgeous and awesome - and I will cover that in a separate post since there are tons of pictures and this has already gotten quite long - but my god were those kids a nightmare.  They were loud and obnoxious and running into people and flailing about and touching the coral when the tour guides CLEARLY stated not too.. they were so annoying.

If I didn't already have a wonderfully charming child, I seriously would have decided at that very moment that I was never going to have kids in my life.  Seriously.

BUT... we saw tons of awesome fish and I got some great pictures.  That was the ultimate goal, right? 

Snorkeling pictures coming soon!


Oh boy!  In addition to having a parrot, we have a little daredevil now as well!

Let the bumps and bruises begin! (or continue really, since bruises have been happening since he started walking.)

The Parrot

It's official - EH is in the "parroting" phase of his toddlerhood.  He is acutely aware of things that we are doing or saying, and he tries to mimic nearly everything he can.

This morning when I was carrying him down the stairs in his car seat (yes, we're still using his infant carrier in my car - I like that I can strap him into it five minutes before we leave so that I can go up and down the stairs without worrying about him following me or getting into trouble) and the seat pushed down on my kneecap in such a way that excruciating pain radiated throughout my leg and I had to set EH down in the garage.  As I huffed and puffed and said things like "oh oh oh... " he said, empathetically, "Uh oh!"  I couldn't put any weight on my left leg at all, my vision was spinning and I started sweated and having trouble taking a deep breath.  In an effort to calm myself down, I leaned again my car and started taking deep breaths.

Breath in.
Breath out.
In. Out.

A moment later I heard a puff of air come from EH's mouth and he was smiling at me.  I realized that he was mimicking my deep breathing.  So I did it again.  And so did he.  He was so proud of himself, he was grinning from ear to ear.

He's so impressionable right now, and we're trying really hard to take full advantage of that.  That post a while back that I wrote about needing to be more present? We've totally done that and it's been amazing.  Our time together feels so much more quality and even DH is trying to get better at putting down his phone or magazine during EH time so that they can play and learn together.

The other day we worked on colors and he said "blue."  He says "row row" for Row Row Row Your Boat. He's said "I love you" when prompted although it sounds more like "Uh oh oooh."  His new day care worker (who I need to tell you about sometime soon!) also claims that he's said things like "circle," which I find hard to believe, but who knows! He says "Hi" non-stop and the other day he even picked up his monitor base, put it to his ear, and excitedly said "HI!" like he was talking on the phone. 

 Seriously - melt my heart.

(By the way, my knee feels better although my entire leg still aches a bit.  But I'm fairly confident there was no permanent damage done.) 


EH is a lucky boy - he has two cousins who were both born within 11 months after him.

He may not see them much, because they both live far away, but we can already tell that whenever they do end up getting together it's going to be a good time for everyone involved.

I'm pretty sure EH is already dreaming of owning a motorcycle

They're adorable together now, and they can barely interact with each other.  I can't imagine how much fun it's going to be when they can start playing together.

This boy's got moves

There are many things that are universally cute with babies.  Their toothless grins.  Their clumsy crawling.  And their goofy, little kid dancing.

I like to call this one the baby booty dance.  I'm pretty sure he learned it from his aunt Emmy.

On this particular night, our evening was that scene - or a scene very similar to that one - replayed over, and over, and OVER and over again....How is it possible that something that should be so annoying ends up being so cute?  Oh, that's right.... it's the rule of universal cuteness.  What can I say?  The boy's got moves.

(Video not working? Here's the direct link:

Charming Our Pants Off

Many many months ago when we EH was only about two months old and we were still those painfully difficult early months where there is no schedule and no sleep and not much of anything but baby and chaos, we went to a wedding where DH asked one of the guests what her "favorite age" of her kids was.  She said, in a sort of whimsical tone, (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Oh, I don't know... I know its sounds crazy but I like all of the ages. I think they're all good." 

In my mind I was thinking, "Woman, you are crazy.  There is nothing good about the age of two months!"

And I am not here today to tell you that my opinion on that has changed. I still can't find many redeeming qualities of two months old.  (Sorry baby lovers - harsh, but true.)  But now that EH is over 13 months old, I have an inkling of understanding with what she meant about each age being good in it's own way. 

Ever since EH turned about 6 months (basically, ever since we pulled him out of day care) he's been healthy and growing and charming our socks off each and every day of his life.  Each month we love him more, and each month we remark on how "this age" is our new favorite ago. 

He's seriously the light of our lives. In the morning his goofy smile is brighter than any sun that may or may not decide to come up that day - the smile is always there.  He can charm the pants off of anyone he meets with his southern accented, high pitched "Hhhiiiii!" He is oozing with personality, picking up on new words, forming new habits, mimicking things that he sees us do. 

There are so many moments in the day when he does something and it makes me stop whatever it is that I am doing because I realize that I need to be more physically and emotionally present for him in the few hours of each day that I get with him.  I look away for a moment and I could miss one of the cutest things he's ever done.  Lately he has protested when we pick him up from his babysitting - he would rather stay with her than come home with us.  This made me sad in a sense, but then I realized that I don't blame him.  When he's home with us DH and I are usually both doing something else - cooking dinner, washing dishes, lesson planning, reading something on the internet or one our phones.  When he's with the babysitter he has the dedicated attention of something who is kind and loving and is giving him the feedback that he is looking for.  Too often he doesn't get feedback from us unless he's getting into trouble of some sort, or unless he's fallen and hurt himself. 

My god, are we crazy!?!? That's totally not right!  He may NEVER be this fun, or cute, or charming, or innocent, or at the very least, this "13 months" old age ever again.   Look at that face in that picture above!!!! How in the WORLD could dishes be more important than that? I know I've said this before, and I feel like it needs to be said again because it's SUCH an important thing that I want to remember.

Be more present. 

That is my goal.  It's harder than it sounds, but I already know it's worth it.

Florida Vacation - Sanibel Island

On our second full day of our trip, we made the 1.5 hour trip north of Naples to Sanibel Island.  Sanibel is well known for the fabulous shells that supposedly wash up on its beaches.  I say supposedly because although there were a lot of shells, none of them were amazing.  They were mostly tiny, boring, broken shells.

But that aside, Sanibel is still a really interesting place to visit.  It's sort of throwback - you feel like you've taken a step back in time when traffic lights didn't exist and everyone gets around on bicycle.

Biking is what you do on Sanibel Island.  It's totally flat and the little town laid miles and miles of bike trails just off the main road out of the way of traffic.  Some of it's even in the shade.

 We first biked to the tip of the island, where an old, tiny, unimpressive light house was the main attraction.  I was more impressed by the beach - crystal clear water that was ridiculously warm and super shallow for a long distance.  We didn't go out far into the water - we still had a lot of biking to do and we had really just started - but the distance we did walk out didn't have the water over our knees and the waves were mild.  It would have been a great spot to take little kids.

 The picture above shows what most of the beach looked like. Yes, there were a lot of shells, like we had read about in the books.  But they were all like this - extremely disappointing.  Perhaps we needed to come after high tide or after a storm?

We hopped back on our bikes and rode just over 7 miles to the J. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve.  I was nervous about making that trek because of the distance - I knew we'd have quite a hike left - but we did it anyway.  

Sadly we didn't see much wildlife.  A few birds, that was it, really.

I'm still smiling at this point, but don't let that fool you.  I. was. HOT.  As you can see, I had already shed my shirt by this point, something that I don't do unless these are extreme circumstances, given that I still have 10 ponds of baby weight I neglected to lose sitting around my stomach region.  But oh my god was it hot, and any unessential clothing had to go.  Thus, bye bye shirt. 

DH maintained a much more respectable appearance than I.  Also notice that his face isn't beet red, and for some reason, his sky is a beautiful blue whereas mine was a murky gray.  Was that a sign?

Anyway, we biked the 4 miles or so through half of the park, taking the short cut bike trail, and by the last two miles, I was done.  I stopped looking around for any wildlife. I stopped making conversation.  My only goal was to get to the end alive.  I kept my face down and took deep breaths. 

When we got back to the information center it had started to rain.  DH went to fill our water bottles and I laid out a beach towel in the middle of the sidewalk near the bike rack and just laid there in the rain, trying to get over the dizzy, nauseous feeling that overwhelmed me.  Yes, I was in the middle of pedestrian traffic and no I didn't care.  Yes, people gave me funny looks, but no, no one asked if I was ok.  I didn't care thought.   I just knew that I wasn't going to lay in the wooded areas where there might be a lurking crocodile so the sidewalk was my only option.

The ride back to the bike place was long and hot, but I made it.  I was drenched in sweat in ways that I had never been before, my legs felt like jelly and I was more than a little cranky, but I survived. 

After that we went to Bowman's beach for some relaxation.  Now I was in my element, but DH was starting to experience the heat exhaustion that I had already gone through, so he didn't last long at the beach.  His crankiness kicked in and after less than two hours we headed out.  It was too much biking for me, and too much beach for him.  Oh well.  Lesson learned - don't oversee it on the second full day of your vacation.

Day three was the Everglades, so the next Naples post involves LOTS of gators!

The First Birthday Cake

In exactly one week, EH is going to be 13 months old, so I figured I better get around to posting his 12 month birthday pictures before it's too far past to even be relevant any more!

This post is going to be all about cake.  Because honestly, giving a one year old a cake to smash and smear all over themselves is what first birthday parties are all about, right?

Actually, our original plan was to not give EH a birthday cake.  We've kept him away from sweets for this long, we figured, why ruin that now?  We lined up my mom to make him zucchini bread - since zucchini is one of his favorite foods anyway - with a little frosting to make it exciting, and we figured it would still be a blast for him to smash away at something.

I'm sure it would have been.  And I'm sure that EH would have been perfectly happy to eat nothing but zucchini bread at his birthday party.  But a few days before his party when DH called Giant Eagle to order the "adult" cakes (an almond torte and a 1/4 sheet cake that said "Happy 1st Birthday, EH!") the bakery person let him know that they give families a free smash cake for first birthday's when you order a regular cake through them, so DH said OK.

So that afternoon, EH's birthday cake table looked like this:

(Thanks to my mom for taking this picture - I was too busy to take any pictures!)

We put a candle in his little cake (which you'll notice was actually quite enormous for one little one-year old) and we sang "Happy Birthday."

He was quite intrigued when we put it down in front of him. (And thanks to my older sister who took all of the rest of these pictures with my camera.)

His thoughts, "Well ok then, I guess I'm allowed to have this!"

He was so intrigued.

Then his uncle S showed him how to really smash a cake.  (The good news? Uncle S's little girl turns one next July, so we'll have plenty of time to plan our payback!)

After that, it was all over.  The cake, that is.

 "Yay! This is awesome!"

Starting to get a little full. 

 "Yaaay.... umm... ok, I think I'm done here, people."

"Dada, do you want some?"

"I guess there's always room for a little more." (Spoken like a true Hartman boy.)

"Time for a nap."

So, even though we thought we were going to be the people who bucked the trend of the smash cake, we gave in, and it was ok.  He enjoyed it, the guests enjoyed it, and we got some really good pictures out of it.  Plus, he got to enjoy the zucchini bread for the rest of the week! (Or, at least, for two days, until his daddy discovered and devoured it.) 

You only turn one once, right?  Live it up!

Florida Vacation - Naples, FL

Our home base for our vacation was in Naples Florida, at a country club condominium about 25 minutes inland from the Naples beaches.  Our flight arrived in the early evening so by the time we got our luggage, or rental car, and made the drive from Fort Myers to Naples we decided to do nothing more than grab something to eat and hit the grocery store.  We had every intention of cooking as many of our meals as possible, and spent at nearly $300 on groceries for the week, although that also included many 6 packs of beer and at least one bottle of wine.  Considering that we would spend an average of $50 per meal if we ate out, we decided that $300 was a way better.

The next day - our first full day - it was raining, but that didn't stop up from visiting the small "local"pool that was just down the street from our condo. 

DH attempted to do 60 laps of the tiny pool and around lap 55 he stopped because it started thundering and because he was ready to throw up from exhaustion.  I did 12 laps and felt like I got a good workout from it, so even though he was disappointed in coming in a little short of his goal, 55 laps is definitely no joke. 

We spent most of the afternoon just relaxing and getting into the spirit of vacation.  DH started reading his first recreational book in years, and I paged through the southwest Florida section of the Fodor's travel guide that I checked out of the library (which ended up being an amazing resource that we used to plan nearly every outing, in addition to what I had already researched on Trip Advisor.)

In the evening, even though it was still cloudy, we decided to venture to this ocean.   This is when we started to realize that inland was always dark and gloomy, and it was often raining.  But as you drove near the ocean the clouds thinned, the blue sky appeared, and it was usually sunny and beautiful.  It was crazy, and consistently beautiful on the beach and gloomy inland where our condo was.  We started calling the condo area Gloomsville. 

The first beach we visited was Lowdermilk Beach.  Although this picture doesn't really show it, this was a beach that was lined with lots of hotels and beach houses.  It was very populated but very beautiful in the evening.  In fact, it ended up being the most populated beach we visited during our time there, but since we were just there for a walk, it didn't matter anyway.

We saw some very ugly ducks in the park area of the beach, as well as their ugly ducklings.

After the beach, we strolled around the Naples upscale shopping areas, peering into restaurants and shops.  We stopped to get ice cream at one point but when I saw the prices - $7.50 for a small milkshake! - we decided to stop at the store on our way home and buy a carton of ice cream.  That decision served us well for the rest of the week....