Tuesday, December 31, 2019

a look back on 2019

Life with a three-year-old has kept us pretty busy this year! Take a look back on our biggest moments from 2019.

Top Row (left to right): Snowy fun sledding on our driveway; a weekend getaway to Sin City; GranE’s spring and fall Mae-cations; and saying a sad goodbye to our beloved parakeet, Charlie

Middle Row: Spending a fun Easter weekend with the family; celebrating three years of our amazing little girl; our vacation to Rhode Island and Lake George; and a late summer trip to GranE and Batman’s beach house

Bottom Row: Introducing Mae to nature walks; celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary with a visit to the amusement park; our cute little Halloween Octonaut; and our first Christmas at home!

We are back home after spending the last few days visiting Dan's family. We packed our bags on Christmas, and drove to the airport early on the 26th. This was our first trip without a stroller, and Mae did great. She was so excited to pull her suitcase through the airport that she forgot to complain about her legs being tired!

On our first night, we had dinner at GranE and Batman’s house and celebrated Christmas with our third round of opening gifts. Mae has loved zipping around on her new scooter and giving everyone check-ups with her doctor kit. We also all got new Batman shirts!

We spent the next day at the playground, on the scooter, and resting inside while watching The Great British Baking Show. Mae likes the show and always feels bad for people when they have “a bad bake.” Mae also made tacos for Pepper with her new taco kit. Pepper wished they were real tacos.

In the evening, we went to Longwood Gardens, which has beautiful Christmas lights and a spectacular greenhouse. We climbed the treehouses and explored the children’s garden. I love this place!

Saturday evening, we went to Dan’s cousin’s bar/restaurant for dinner and drinks with GranE. We had a tasty meal, and Mae danced herself silly next to the table. We hung around just long enough to say hi to other cousins and family who stopped by, but had to leave to get Mae back for bedtime. The holidays are rough on kid’s sleep schedules! (I didn’t take any photos at the bar, but Mae did. I’ll have to look through her camera!)

On Sunday, we drove to Maryland to visit Dan’s Grandma and Batman’s side of the family. We went out for a delicious brunch, and enjoyed visiting with Dan’s cousin, aunt, and uncles along with Great Grandma.

Monday’s weather was dreary and gross, so we stayed inside most of the day. Colleen brought over her Kirsten doll and clothes, which kept Mae entertained for the afternoon. Kirsten even got a check-up from Doctor Mae.

After a bit of a flight delay Tuesday, we finally made it home. We enjoyed all of our Christmas travel, but now we are looking forward to a few quiet days to ourselves before we head back to work. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

home for the holidays

Merry Christmas!

I’m typing while sitting on the couch, surrounded by the scattered aftermath of Christmas: new toys, discarded boxes, bits of wrapping paper, candy wrappers, and pine needles (so many pine needles). Dan is next to me playing a new video game while Mae is conked out upstairs after a long, fun day. Our first Christmas at home was a success!

Last Friday we drove to visit my family for some pre-Christmas festivities. We kicked the weekend off with a trip to the theater to see the latest Star Wars movie with Dad, Kevin, and Christopher while Mae stayed home with Grandma. We spent most of Saturday lounging around the house and made a quick visit to the Christkindlmarket in the evening. Sunday, we drove downtown for one of my favorite traditions, the symphony’s Christmas show. We left Mae with a babysitter, but she’ll be old enough to enjoy it next year. I am so excited to share the experience with her, since she will love the music, dancing, and beautiful costumes! We finished the evening with our sibling gift exchange.

On Monday, we opened our gifts from Mom and Dad.

Mae was so excited to get her very own suitcase, a Bitty Baby, and a little camera. She spent the rest of the day packing everything up, “traveling” to different cities, and taking photos... lots and lots of photos.

We went to the zoo in the evening to see the Christmas lights and the dolphin show. Mae ran to each animal, snapped a photo, and then ran on to the next animal. We could barely keep up!

Christmas Eve morning, we woke up early for Breakfast with Santa. (Mae asked Santa for candy canes. “Big ones. And little ones.”) We ate breakfast and then took Mae to play the little carnival games they had set up. She also got to meet Anna and Elsa. (She just saw "Frozen" for the first time last week when she was home sick from day care. She liked it, but I don't think she has "frozen fever" yet, thank goodness.)

We took pictures with Christmas props at the photo booth.

I laughed until tears were rolling down my face when Mae put on this giant Santa head.

On our way out, I made Mae pose behind this sign that said “TEAM.” It was too perfect of a backdrop to pass up (with some strategic cropping and a bit of leeway on the direction of the E.)

We drove back to our house straight from breakfast to celebrate our first Christmas at home... ever! Mae took a quick nap, and then we went to early evening mass. Afterwards, we had homemade pizza for dinner (topped with pepperonis and spinach for Christmassy colors). We opened our last advent calendar door, watched “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” set out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, and read ‘Twas Night Before Christmas. Mae took a long time to fall asleep with all the excitement.

In the morning, she called out to me and I went upstairs to get her out of bed. She looked worried and said, “I don’t think Santa came.” She came down the stairs and ran to the fireplace to find that the cookies, milk, and carrots were gone. Then she ran to the living room to find her presents!

She was excited to open a Playmobil school, more wooden train track, and the game Loopin’ Louie. We spent the rest of the day in our pajamas, playing (and setting up) the new toys. We even went to the playground in our jammies, since it was in the 60s and beautifully sunny! We made a delicious ham dinner and snuggled in for our third viewing of “Muppet Family Christmas” this season.

We had a cheerful, relaxing, quiet Christmas, and it was wonderful! Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

a fall mae-cation

We had a fun time with GranE when she came for a short Mae-cation in early November. I didn't manage to take many photos, but we packed a good amount of activities into just a few days!

While Dan and I went to work on Thursday, GranE and Mae enjoyed their typical day: fashion show in the morning with all the new clothes that GranE brought for Mae followed by a trip to the coffee shop for a jelly-filled cookie. They played blocks and magnatiles before having Mae's (current) favorite lunch: peanut butter and jelly. (I'm excited that Mae has finally developed a taste for peanut butter. Makes life much easier when there's no real lunch food in the house!)

GranE even got this photo... as proof that Mae SOMETIMES snuggles! Usually she's just way too wiggly, but she loves to snuggle GranE!

Even as a tiny baby, GranE was her favorite snuggler.

On Friday, I got to tag along on the morning coffee shop trip. We followed it up with a trip to our local toy store, which has added an awesome play area in the basement. Saturday, we attended a family event organized by my group at work. It was held at our local "fowling" facility, which is a hybrid of football and bowling. (You throw a football at bowling pins that are set up on a board, kind of like cornhole. It's surprisingly challenging, mostly due to the unpredictable football bounce.) They also had a couple bouncy houses and a giant inflatable slide where we spent most of our time. GranE and I both took Mae down the slide a couple times. So fun!

It was a fun little Mae-cation!

Friday, November 22, 2019

i saw a kiwi!

In the last 10 years, I have slowly accrued a moderate number of American Airlines miles. Since I have no loyalty to any particular airline, and I fly juuuust frequently enough to prevent my miles from expiring, I found myself with about 40,000 miles set to expire at the beginning of December. In the currency of airline miles, that's the equivalent of two round trip tickets to a handful of domestic cities, two nights in a hotel, or 200 years of subscriptions to Better Homes & Gardens magazine (yes, seriously).

A towering stack of unread BH&G magazines would give me anxiety. Flying somewhere would result in additional costs on our "free" vacation (a ticket for Mae, a hotel, a rental car, etc). Instead, we opted for a couple nights in a fairly swanky hotel in the glamorous city of Columbus, Ohio. We checked in Friday evening and opted for a room with two queen beds, so Mae and I could snuggle while Dan sprawled out in his own bed. This arrangement saved me from having middle-of-the-night panic attacks that Mae had suffocated under a pile of fluffy hotel pillows. In the mornings, we feasted on bagels and breakfast pastries in bed while we watched cartoons. In the evenings we watched movies: "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "Paddington 2." Highly recommend both for toddlers... Mae was especially entertained by the idea of "hangubbers" falling from the sky.

On Saturday, we went to COSI, a very kid-friendly science museum.

We especially loved the ocean exhibit with the underwater cave area... though I almost had a claustrophobia-induced panic attack watching Mae climb down into the little submarine.

We had fun checking out all the dinosaur bones. Wasn't I smart to dress Mae in her dino leggings? Oops, sorry for cutting your head off in this photo, Mr. Stego.

Mae had fun playing in this dinosaur nest. Dan said, "If someone asked me for a photo that captures my kid's personality, I would show them this."

The art room in the kidspace area had an activity set up where kids could use pipettes to mix red, yellow, and blue water in dishes to make new colors. Mae loved this project, since she is always asking me what different color combinations make. (For the record, pink and pink and pink make triple pink.)

On Sunday, we went to the Columbus Zoo, with my NUMBER ONE goal to see a kiwi bird. I think they are so cute and so ridiculous, and I've never gotten to see one in person. If you are not aware of my love for kiwis, you clearly missed my first blog post ever, in which a kiwi statue almost tempted me to a life of thievery. The kiwi at the zoo was sleeping in a dark exhibit inside a log, but I still got to see it!! Here's me and Mae in a different aviary, right after seeing the kiwi. (Can't stop smiling.)

We also got to see bison and a moose, which were so cool to see up close! Don't worry, this is just a statue. There are no moose rides at the zoo.

We drove home Sunday evening feeling both refreshed and exhausted somehow. This was a much-needed weekend getaway and we had an awesome time!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

creature report

For Halloween this year, Mae decided to dress as Captain Barnacles, a character from one of her favorite TV shows, Octonauts. Captain Barnacles is a polar bear who leads a team of animals to explore the oceans and help out various sea creatures. Since our Halloween weather tends to be quite chilly, I am always on board with costumes that involve sweatpants and hats!

Here's a pic of the Octonauts for reference.

Halloween was (literally) freezing and soooo windy, so I'm glad Mae got a chance to wear her costume the weekend before when we visited the zoo. We visited our favorite animals, including (of course) the polar bear!

I loved that the train was converted into the Hogwarts Express for the month of October. We traveled through the Forbidden Forest and saw many magical creatures!

Our little Captain Barnacles was right at home with the undersea exhibits!

We carved our pumpkin the night before Halloween. Mae was not a fan of the slimy "pumpkin boogers" inside but she did like helping me to design the face. I took a piece of white paper and drew three options each for the eyes, nose, and mouth. She chose the triangle eyes (classic), the pig nose (funny), and the scary mouth (a surprising twist).

Mae didn't want to wear her coat on Halloween (for obvious reasons), so we put on an extra layer of clothes underneath her costume. Dan took her out to Trick-or-Treat for about 20 minutes. Then we swapped roles and I took her out until she froze into a little icicle. At home, I wrapped her in a blanket and let her watch Octonauts while Dan and and I sipped hot cider and handed out candy. We handed out a little less than 150 pieces of candy, with slightly lower turnout than expected (likely due to the weather.) Just ignore our unlit pumpkin here... it was impossible to keep it lit with the wind.

We've enjoyed the Halloween haul, and Mae even shared her full-size Hershey bar with me. She was so excited about it that we had to take it with us on our mini-vacation last weekend. Mae also got in a little "trick" on us this week. We were discussing how many legs different types of animals have, and I asked about Professor Inkling (the Octopus from Octonauts).

Me: "How many legs does Professor Inkling have?"
Mae: "None."
Me: "None??"
Mae: "None. He has tentacles!"

Well... she's not wrong!

For the costume, I ordered the blue sweatpants and t-shirt from Primary. Their clothes are a bit pricey (I used a coupon code), but it's surprisingly hard to find a matching shirt and sweats in a color other than black or gray anywhere else! I also ordered the rubber boots from Amazon. (One of Mae's favorite Octonauts episodes features a Long Arm Squid, so it feels very appropriate that she refers to this blue t-shirt as a "long arm sleeve shirt.")

I made the hat, collar, and belt from white fleece and light blue felt purchased at Jo-Ann. The belt is just a doubled rectangle of felt, held in the back with two strips of sew-on velcro. Mae was very excited about the Octo-compass on her belt, which consisted of scraps of craft felt held together by a combination of sewing and fabric glue.

I made the collar by tracing the neckline of the t-shirt and sketching a collar shape. I cut two identical pieces from the light blue felt and stitched them together. They're held together in the back with a velcro strip. The chevrons are glued-on bits of craft felt.

The hat was the biggest challenge. I tried to freehand the fleece pattern, but couldn't get a good fit, so I used a free pattern from Fleece Fun and added little fleece ears into the side seam. Then, I free-handed the fleece captain hat, but my math/measuring skills were NOT WORKING. I made at least 4 hat brims before I found one that fit correctly on the fleece hat. To make the captain hat, I made two identical felt brims, sewed them together into tubes, sewed them together along the top edge, then turned them inside out, pressed, and topstitched the top edge. Then I made a slightly domed hat portion, cut it into a circle to fit inside the brim, and machined-sewed it to the inner brim piece only, about halfway down the brim. Then I topstitched the bottom edge of the brim closed. The stripes and Octonauts symbol are cut from felt and attached with craft glue. I put a bit of stuffing into the captain hat so it would hold its shape before I hand-stitched it to the fleece hat.

I've heard variations of this joke before, and I'm no exception: I refuse to spend $20 on a Halloween costume, but I'll spent $40 on materials and spend a month making it myself! Worth it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

romantic roller coastering

Dan and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last month with a trip to the amusement park. Our discount day through work happened to fall right on our anniversary! My whole family came in for the day, and we all enjoyed a beautiful day of roller coasters and fun.

We alternated between grown-up rides and kiddie rides. The lines were short for most of the big coasters, so we got to ride everything we wanted without making Mae, Oliver, and Archie wait too long for their turns.

The kids lines were actually a lot longer, but Mae, Ollie, and Archie were pretty patient. They loved the bumper cars and little automated car track just like last year.

Mae has been learning about vitamins and protein and how important it is to eat meat and "betchables" during meal time. She loves to tell me, "My leg is growing! My foot is growing! Because I ate my broccoli!" I guess all those vegetables have paid off, because this year, Mae and Ollie were tall enough to ride some new things. They were a little hesitant on the tiny roller coaster, but loved the swings!

I have had tons fun at the amusement park before, but I don't think I've felt as much pure joy in one moment there as I did watching Mae and Oliver on the swing ride. Every kid on that ride was having the time of his life, and every parent standing by to watch had a huge smile on their face!

While the kids' absolutely loved the swings, I think the highlight of Christopher's day was finally getting to drive the antique cars. The ride was removed years ago, just before he was tall enough to drive them, and was only re-opened recently. I enjoyed the double layer of nostalgia: fondly remembering 20 years ago when we puttered around in these cars, which are, themselves, a throwback to 100+ years ago.

For days before our visit to the park, Mae talked about a "yellow ride that goes up and down." I thought she was referring to a little airplane ride that she did last year, but when we got to the park, she insisted on the kiddie version of the drop tower! She was so brave and excited, and by far the tiniest kid on the ride. Look at her cute little face in there! (Also, props to Dan for agreeing to take Mae on this ride. Heights really aren't his thing. Good job conquering your fears for the sake of our kid.)

Our daredevil also enjoyed being whipped around on this little buggy ride. She wanted to ride everything in sight... even the stuff she's too small for! It's very hard to explain to a self-declared "big kid" that there are many more levels of big to achieve.

The only ride that left Mae a little scared was the haunted house where you get to fire laser guns at the "bad guys." That turned out to be Oliver's favorite ride! Fortunately, she is NOT afraid of giant mascot characters and was very excited to meet Charlie Brown. We had just watched The Peanuts Movie, so when she saw him standing near one of the rides, she nearly leapt out of my arms to run to him.

We had a long, fun day and stayed until the park closed. We admired the colorful fountains as we headed for our car. Such a fun way to spend our anniversary... even if it wasn't particularly romantic! (By the way, the "traditional" anniversary gift for 7 years is wool. Maybe that's the true cause of the "seven year itch." Anyways, that's how I justified my recent purchases at the Kentucky Wool Festival.)