Thursday, December 17, 2015

Family Pictures and Christmas Cards 2015

I used to not really be into professional photography...except for our wedding, of course.  I could never justify the money, as they can be a pretty big investment.  I was always content to have a family member take pictures for us, and they usually turned out pretty good.  I changed my mind when Stella was born.  Mark and I both tend to be pretty frugal and it serves us well, but professional family pictures are something I don't mind spending the money on anymore.  They last a lifetime, are impossible to capture on your own, and these days there is an abundant selection of photographers at various price points.  Their talent, creativity, and detailed editing are worth every penny in my opinion!

Last winter I wanted to test out a local photographer before booking an entire photo shoot, so we did a holiday mini-session for a discounted price.  This is also a great option if you are looking to save money and are OK with only getting around 10 images (might be difficult if you have young children because you only get a 10-15 minute time slot, so you just kinda have to judge their temperament).  You can read about that photo session HERE.  I was very impressed with her work, so we did a full session at the end of August this year. 

We had to re-schedule once because it was a gloomy, drizzly day on the original day we booked.  The photographer specializes in her beautiful use of sunlight, that is what drew me to her work, so it was really important to have a day with a good sunset.  We had the perfect day on the second shot!  We met at a local park about an hour before sunset and she was able to get lots of beautiful images.  I was so happy with it!  The only downside to our session was when we tried to get our dog Kaiser in some shots.  He listens pretty well, but he was overly excited.  Normally this wouldn't be a huge deal, he would have calmed down, but at the time Stella was going through a (jealousy?) phase where she didn't even like us to talk to Kaiser.  She cried every time we even said his name.  So in the image with him you will see her tearing up.  I still like the picture, even if not every shot is perfect it is all about capturing what your life is like at that point in time.  That's what you want to remember when you look back!  So that is one of my favorite images of the day :-) 

A few weeks after our photo shoot I went to the (beautiful!) photography studio to view the images and place my order.  She has handmade Organic Bloom picture frames that are simply stunning!  I ordered a collage of those plus an extra frame.  When we re-do our master suite this winter those will be making an appearance!  I was so pleased with the whole experience, Sarah's attention to detail is just amazing.  She even sends you off with a delicious red velvet cake and bottle of wine as a thank-you doesn't get better than that!  If you live in the area you have to check out her work (Sarah Sunstrom Photography).  I see us doing pictures again in a few years!

OK, now that I've bragged on how well our session went and how in love I am with Sarah's work it's finally time to share my favorite images!  I compiled them into a collage for easy viewing, but you can see them all individually HERE (if you have Facebook).
Once I owned the rights to the photos, I was able to share them with family.  I ordered wallets of Stella (to pass out as her 2 year pictures), a few family gifts for Christmas (some came complimentary from Sarah!) and of course our annual Christmas cards from Shutterfly.  I must say I wasn't really impressed with Shutterfly this year.  Their prices have gone up, and when I ordered our cards on Cyber Monday it took FOREVER!  I will definitely be looking into a different site next year.  I also couldn't figure out how I uploaded our Christmas cards on here last year, so I had to take a picture and then upload them this year.  Not the best quality but it will have to do!

I am grateful to say we have been healthy thus far this holiday season (knock on wood!)  My house is decorated, our real tree is up, holiday Scentsy has been burning, and almost all of my shopping is done!  This weekend I'm grabbing the rest of the gifts, wrapping them and we're taking Stella to see Santa (or HOHO as she calls him) and look at Christmas lights.  Tomorrow night we also have Mark's work Christmas party.  I'm excited to try out a new festive appetizer and I bought myself a bottle of sparkling cider...looking forward to a date night before a crazy Christmas weekend!  I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, I will do a post on all our holiday adventures next weekend.  Stay safe, stay healthy, enjoy the holiday and remember the reason for the season!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

18 Week Bump Update!

My first trimester seemed to drag this time...I was so sick and it was hard to wait until we could share the news.  Since I entered the second trimester, however, time is flying by!  I have so much to get done before baby arrives!!  But for now, a quick bump update will have to do...

Physical Changes:
I am already showing, and have been for quite a while.  They say that happens after your first pregnancy.  I haven't gained as much weight as last time though...probably due to all that nausea in the first trimester!  My goal is to weigh the exact same at 20 weeks prego as I did with Stella...even though I haven't gained as much, I started out 7 pounds heavier with this baby.  Then I aim to only gain a pound a week until I deliver, which should put me at gaining about 40 pounds with this pregnancy.  That's 10 pounds less than with Stella, which will help because those last 10 were the hardest to lose!!  Other than my growing belly, I have been fighting terrible headaches (which I finally had to get medicine for from my doctor...basically Tylenol with a little added caffeine...perfectly safe just gives me a boost to get through the headache.  They were so bad a few days I couldn't leave the couch.)  I have also had very sensitive teeth and nosebleeds and stuffiness when I forget to run my humidifier at night.    Heartburn is also starting to rear its' ugly head, time to re-invest in a drawer full of Tums!  Happily I do think I've felt some movement already from my little babe...although they are so small it's hard to tell at this point.  Stella was always behind the placenta so I rarely felt her the whole pregnancy which was kinda sad.  Hopefully I feel more movement this time, it's so special :-)

Emotional Outbursts?
I don't think I've been too emotional this time.  Already having a daughter keeps me pretty busy and grounded, not as much time for irrational fears!  Sometimes I laugh really hard for no reason...which is kinda weird yet kinda normal for me so hard to say if it's the baby doing it to me or not!  My main concerns right now are staying healthy and getting our tiny house ready for 2 kiddos!  I sure plan to make the most of this winter and feeling my best in trimester 2!

Staying Healthy:
Uggg.  The struggle has been HUGE this time.  I was so exhausted, nauseous, and plagued by headaches for 14 weeks, on top of taking care of Stella and trying SO HARD to get her caught up developmentally, that taking care of myself didn't go well.  I did good enough to take care of my baby, but it certainly could have been better.  But now that I am feeling better and have my energy back I am getting myself back on track.  I am putting my exercise, clean eating plans, and motivation back to work so that I can look and feel my best throughout the rest of my pregnancy!  Gotta have some energy for all the work that needs done around here...

Preparing for Baby:
Haven't done much so far!!  After mustering through trimester 1, I started feeling better but then all my attention was on Stella's birthday and now the holidays.  I am allowing myself to enjoy the holidays and experience them stress-free (except the normal holiday stress, of course!).  Then I have lots on my to-do list this winter...clean up the nursery and get all baby's items and clothes out, set up Stella's big girl bedroom, deep clean our house and make a few changes to our master suite, organize our basement (which sadly now looks worse than when we moved in!  so much stuff!), hopefully get Stella caught up developmentally and possibly potty-trained (fingers crossed!), get all my scrap booking caught up, do some work to my blog, and take better care of myself.  Yikes that is quite the list for 3 months, and that's just off the top of my head!  I plan to spend the last month enjoying my time with Stella and resting up for all those sleepless nights!  The timing of this pregnancy is perfect...right when I feel my best the weather keeps us inside so I will have plenty of time to work on all my projects. is due during Mark's busiest time of year (AGAIN, since he has a new job...we gotta quit doing that!) so that timing isn't on our side.  It will all work out :-)

Belly Pics:
Only have one new one for this update...

I did have a check-up last week with an ultrasound, so we do know the sex of our baby already!  We plan to share the news with our families at Christmas, and I will do a public post soon after that :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Stella Anne's 2nd Birthday Celebration!!

Stella's birthday fell on a Tuesday this year.  Thankfully she didn't have therapy on her birthday, so we were able to enjoy a fun day at home!  Mark had gotten her a few balloons the night before and put them in her room when he left for work Tuesday morning, so around 6:30 I heard "WOW!  Ball, WOW!"  I went and took them out because I knew she needed another hour or so of sleep before we began her big day, but it was such a cute wake-up call :-)
Birthday girl!
I made Stella banana and egg pancakes in the shapes of "2" and a dog and added some sprinkles, but she didn't want to eat them.  She likes regular pancakes, I tried to take a healthy shortcut and unfortunately she didn't like them.  Lesson learned.  So she had a cereal bar while I ate the's the thought that counts right??  After breakfast I let her open her presents from me.  I got her a Frozen tea party set and microphone from Target.  They were a huge hit!  We spent the morning playing tea party and putting on concerts, and then she watched Happy Birthday Barney so mama could get a little housework done :-)
Birthday morning fun.
After a pizza lunch and good nap, dad came home.  We originally planned to take her out to supper, but it was raining, windy and cold so we opted for a living room picnic supper instead (thanks for the idea grandma!)  Stella enjoyed it I think!  Then she opened her present from Mark...a sports play set.  They played ball together for a while, and then we did her cake.  Mark had picked out a caramel apple cake from the Wal Mart bakery and it was delicious!!  We discovered that she hates being sang "Happy Birthday" to.  She loves singing and I sing "good morning" to her every day but for some reason "Happy Birthday" makes her cry!  She must be embarrassed.  It was so cute, poor thing, so we took a quick video and then stopped the song ;-)  After cake we colored at her table for quite a while before bedtime.  I'd say it was a relaxing day and she had fun!!
Relaxing birthday evening.

I did try to get 2 year fall pictures done again this year from my friend.  Stella WASN"T having it, she cried through the whole thing.  We had family pictures done in August, so those will have to do for her 2 year pictures this year :-)  I will share those soon!!

This year my sister-in-law and I decided to do our girl's birthday parties together (hers were turning 3 in November and 2 in December) and we chose to have them the weekend after Stella's birthday.  It's hard to pick a date around the holidays, so much going on!  Jenny just had another baby and I was still pretty sick during my first trimester, so we decided to make things easier on us by sharing the work.  This meant spending a bit more money on the party for convenience, but it is what it is.  Everything came together beautifully and it was a great time!  We decided on a Frozen theme, all 3 girls love it (of course).  It is totally over-done I know, but it's what they wanted so it's what they got!!
Our invitation (from Etsy).  Changed locations last minute, that's why the place is different :-)
On the Wednesday a week before the party Stella and I went to Jenny's and we planned the food and decor while the girls had a play day.  Then that Saturday my mom watched Stella while I went shopping for decorations.  It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed it so much!  The following Wednesday Jenny and I took the baby shopping for the food while Mark's mom watched Stella.  We enjoyed a nice lunch at Biaggis and then hit up Sam's and Kohls (for birthday gifts for all the nieces we needed to catch up on!)  On Thursday I grabbed some odds and ends at Wal Mart that we still needed, and Friday Jenny made the cakes while I put together the decorations and packed everything up.  I wanted to get it all done Friday because we were supposed to get a snowstorm Saturday.  I figured it was mostly hype, they always exaggerate the first snow of the season.  Unfortunately I was wrong this time!

I woke up to our very own Arrendale on Saturday, party day.  It was snowing and blowing like crazy!  We got about 5 inches of snow.  I had originally planned to head into town in the morning to get the decorating done while Stella took her nap at my mom's and then get ready myself (we were having the party at the American Legion in Atkinson this year), but our road didn't get plowed and when Mark went to test it there was a semi and 3 cars in the ditch outside our house.  So we decided to hang around our house until about 3:00 in hopes the plows would come by.  They never did, but at least by then it stopped snowing and blowing.  We took the longer (but safer) route to town, and I held my breath down our road.  We almost got stuck!  Even though we had to throw everything together last minute and lots of people couldn't make it, I am just thankful we were able to and everyone traveled safely.  I guess Stella is holding up the pattern of crazy weather around her birthday!!  (Birth= terrible tornadoes, Year 1=record low temps and light snow, Year 2=terrible record setting early snowstorm)
The view outside our window Saturday morning!
We got to the Legion around 4:00.  Stella went to Jennys to play with the girls while we decorated.  First I turned up the heat, it was cold in there!  Then I set up the food & dessert tables while Mark set up the guest tables and blew up balloons.  We got a helium tank from Wal Mart again this's cheaper and then you don't have to live the nightmare of transporting lots of balloons.  Given our time crunch I'd say everything came together nicely!  Jenny & Jeff brought the food (we had Chick-Fil-A cater...yumm!) and cake around 4:45 and by then we were set up and ready for guests!
Drinks & desserts table
Food table
We still had a pretty decent turn-out despite the weather.  I was glad I set the party at 5:00, by then the main roads had been plowed and it was done snowing and blowing.  We just hung out and enjoyed the food for a while.  Half of the Legion was empty, so the kids loved running around playing with the balloons.  Around 7:00 we opened gifts.  They girls sat by each other and opened theirs.  Stella wasn't too interested, she mainly liked the cards and of course had to hold a few crayons the whole time ;-)  She got lots of cute gifts that we have been enjoying at home every day!
Mommy helping open gifts and daddy testing them out!
A short bit after presents we sat the girls together and did their cakes.  They each had a mini cake of their own.  Stella cried hysterically during the singing of Happy Birthday, of course!  She only ate a few bites of her cake and was done.  She doesn't use silverware very well and I didn't want to do the whole smash-cake again this year (embarrassing!  I'm working so hard my goal is to have her using silverware on her own by the new year), so I let her go play and we basically skipped the cake.  I passed out cake to all the guests and we just sat around and visited for a while longer.  They guys played bags and the kids enjoyed watching!  Stella had on new shoes and I was kicking myself for not breaking them in all week, but she didn't do too bad.  She had special flexible walking shoes until last week when she finally grew out of a size 4, so actual shoes are a big of an adjustment.  She lost one during the party and tried to put it back on herself so they couldn't have been that bad!!  She really had a great time playing with her cousins and of course doing lots of coloring.
Loved the cake, the singing not so much!!  So happy until about 9:00...
Around 8:45 I started to kind of pick up.  The kids were still doing great, but I knew it was only a matter of time before they reached their limits, so I just started slowly packing up.  Thankfully a few people jumped in and started to help, because by 9:15 almost all the kids were in tears!  With lots of help we were loaded up and on our way home by 9:30.  We were exhausted and my pregnant feet were super painful, but it was a great party and Stella had fun!  Totally worth the work and money!!
Had to scan a thank you to upload it on here, so not the best quality, but you get the idea.  From Etsy.
Sunday Mark went hunting (1st season, he had went Friday and didn't say a word about missing Saturday!) and I couldn't bring myself to clean up.  I did a little bit but had a severe headache so I opened a few new gifts for Stella and rested all day.  

To see all of the pictures from her birthday and party click HERE.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Tonight Mark and I are going out with friends, and this week I plan to clean my house, do some organizing, and get my Christmas decorating done after we get our tree!  I am looking forward to the holiday season this year!!  I will be back in a few weeks with Stella's 2 year update :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baby Bomleny #2!!

After having Stella I knew it would be a while until I was ready for another for a few reasons.  First, I enjoyed taking plenty of time to spend with just her and figure out the whole mommy gig.  Second, I did have a difficult recovery after she was born.  My body didn't take to the C-section very well and I had postpartum depression.  But fast forward a little over a year and a half later and I started getting the baby itch again!  I don't think you can ever say you are truly ready for a baby, whether it's your first or fourth, but you can be ready to get ready, and that's exactly how I felt!  Mark and I decided to start trying in August because I knew I wanted a summer baby this time around, and I got pregnant immediately.  I will be due during his busy season darn it, but I can't complain because I feel so blessed to be able to conceive so easily.  I can't wait for another baby in our house!  Throughout this pregnancy I am going to try my best to mirror my blog posts to the ones I did when I was prego with Stella, so you will see this follows the first post I did with Stella's pregnancy.  Read that HERE.

How did you find out you were pregnant?
I took a test a little too early and it came back negative.  It was the First Response test I took with Stella, and you can find out 6 days BEFORE your missed period.  I took it 8 days before because I was so anxious, lesson learned.  I still pretty much knew I was pregnant (thank you incredibly sore boobs...TMI I know, sorry!) so I took another one 2 days later and sure enough it was positive!!  Mark was going to be at work until very late at night because they had a customer appreciation dinner, and not being one to be able to wait I called and told him at work!  It was nice to be able to enjoy it this time, I was very sick when I found out I was pregnant with Stella. 

How were you feeling emotionally in the beginning?
This time I barely felt pregnant.  I called the doctor when I got the positive result and they said they don't usually see patients until they are 6 weeks along.  I could go in to have it confirmed, but she said at-home tests are so reliable they didn't think I needed to unless I wanted.  I decided to wait, my Dr is in Peoria this time around so it's a bit more of a drive.  So the first 6 weeks I barely felt pregnant.  It's hard when you can't tell anyone, it just doesn't seem real.  We had quite a few social events in the beginning, and my bump popped out almost immediately, so it was harder to hide this time but we did it!

Were you sick at all?
Ugg.  Yes very.  Around 5 weeks I started to get super nauseous.  I had several food aversions, like coffee, pumpkin anything, and eggs.  My 3 favorite things, especially in the fall!  It sucked.  I could also barely stand any strong smells at all.  When Mark made coffee on the weekends I about lost it.  I could only eat comfort foods or I would feel like I could throw up.  Mainly carbs.  I watched 6 pounds creep back on right away and it was so frustrating after working so hard to lose all my post-Stella baby weight.  But such is life.  I also didn't exercise because I was exhausted ALL. THE. TIME.  This was a much harder first trimester than my first pregnancy, especially with a (super active, tantrum-throwing, therapy loaded) toddler!  I never threw up but I wished I would have just so I could feel better.  Every time I stood up I felt like I was on a boat and completely seasick.  Finally around 8 weeks I started taking 25mg of vitamin B6 every morning and night and that helped a bit.  I was also sleeping like CRAP!!  I was up to pee 2 or 3 times in the night and then it would take me 1-2 HOURS to get back to sleep.  This led to me being in bed for about 10 hours just to get 7 hours of sleep.  Safe to say September and October were pretty unproductive months around here!  And for my last exciting (sarcasm) prego symptom, my face and back broke out like a teenager!  It was so bad.  I loaded on the tea tree oil hoping it would clear itself up, but at 10 weeks I finally broke down and went to the dermatologist.  She gave me 2 safe prescription creams and they cleared up with in a week thankfully.  Now that I'm through the first trimester I am feeling and looking much better and back to a normal sleep schedule, so it's time to get back to eating clean and working out.

Any cravings?
Noodles, rice, pizza, pasta, potatoes, cheese and to balance out all those lovely carbs and fat the occasional salad.  Most fruits and veggies made me sick, so I sucked down a lot of those all-natural fruit pouches.  Not very cheap, but better than not nourishing my baby!

How did you tell family and friends?
 I told my sister-in-law and sister right away again.  I had to have someone to share everything with!  We waited until Halloween to tell everyone else. We dressed up like this on Halloween:

We visited my in-laws in the morning, and then my parents in the afternoon.  Halloween night my family always gathers at my Grandma's after trick-or-treating, so we told my family then.  Mark sent the picture to the rest of his family when we got home.  Some people got it right away, others we had to kind of hint at it.  But if you're not looking for it, I can see how the costumes would be hard to catch.  It was a really fun reveal day though!  The following day we posted this announcement on Facebook:

When are you due?
May 11th.  According to the math it was May 16th, but they moved it up because my confirmation ultrasound at 6 weeks showed the baby was measuring big already!  (of course)  Here's our newest peanut:

Will you find out the gender?
Absolutely.  My next appointment is December 10th.  We will find out the gender then.  This time around I am a lot more laid back, so we aren't doing any genetic testing.  Not that I don't worry, but I just don't find it necessary this time.  I don't worry as much ;-)  He said I could wait to see him again until we could find out the gender since everything looked good and it's my second baby, and I am OK with that!  I love my new doctor.  It's the first time I've had a male, but I'm already over the awkwardness.  He's so laid back, just like Stella's current doctor.  This personality type works well for me in a doctor since I tend to be a little (OK a lot) Type A. 

Belly pictures?
Not going to do weekly pictures this time, it's a lot!!  I will do them as often as I can though!  Here's the first one at 14 weeks, celebrating the end of the first trimester!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

21 Month Update

Time for Stella's quarterly update!  I know I was going to post this last weekend, and I actually had it ready to go but the old desktop and sketchy middle-of-nowhere Internet wouldn't upload my pictures.  So today it is!  This summer technology was pretty much non-existent in our house, so we did a lot of playing, relaxing, and of course a few fun little outings.  To read more about our summer see THIS POST

Over the past 3 months Stella was (for the most part) healthy.  In May her eczema flared up pretty good and even turned into hives so we put her back on Zyrtec full time (was previously only using it as needed).  In June she got a really bad diaper rash (luckily the first one that every required a prescription cream) because she had a round of diarrhea.  But I am happy to say that after a follow-up visit with her allergy specialist this summer I began to slowly pull her medications.  I started by pulling the Zyrtec, only giving it to her as needed.  From there I completely eliminated dairy from her diet to help the constipation.  I was so sick of relying on Miralax, and we know I'm not a huge fan of medication (only when needed-don't get me wrong I am so thankful for it, just don't like to use it unless absolutely necessary!).  I started with soy milk and then switched to almond after a few weeks.  Eliminating dairy foods wasn't too hard because she was still eating pretty simple meals so we just cut out butter (subbed non-dairy mayo), cheese (tried soy cheese and YUCK!!), cottage cheese and yogurt.  This helped her constipation soooo much and I haven't had to use Miralax since (I have started adding a little dairy back in but more on that in the next update because I didn't do any at all for a few months).  In July I slowly pulled the Singular, so by the time she turned 21 months she was off all medications with the exception of her inhaler (which I planned to pull in September).  This has been a long time coming and made us all very happy!
Loves her Frozen couch/bed.  She flips it up and down several times a day :-)

Developmental Delay:
Stella didn't make a whole lot of progress with her gross motor skills during these 3 months.  At 18 months she was pulling up and crawling, by 21 months her only additions included getting on and off the couch independently, getting up and down from her new table and chairs, and finally bending her knees to sit down instead of falling straight back.  Therapy continued once a month, and we focused on walking while holding her hands.  I did this SEVERAL times a day with her, hoping it would eventually catch on and she would be confident enough to step out on her own.  No such luck yet.  It was frustrating, especially when she stood right up from the floor on her own around 18.5 months.  I thought for sure walking was around the corner, but it just wasn't in her plans yet.
Standing up on her own and finally able to get on her elephant by herself!

We saw some small progression in her speech development, but certainly not enough to get her caught up.  She started by mimicking sounds in her favorite songs ("Do you want to build a Snowman" and "Oh Toodles"), and then she started saying "hi da" when Mark gets home from work (still no "mama" dang it), "yea" all the time, and replying "MMMM" when we asked her if her food was good.  So a little responsive language, which was nice, but again just not enough.  We did a speech evaluation at the end of July and she qualified by a landslide.  Here it is almost October and her services haven't even started.  The EI (Early Intervention) program frustrates me, so much red tape preventing kids from getting what they need.  Meanwhile Stella falls further and further behind!  I know there is a budget crisis in Illinois and they are shorthanded, but I also know there are therapists out there that can take her on there's just too many peoples' hands in the fire trying to work it out.  I saw it firsthand teaching.  So for now I work with her as much as possible at home and we wait (I will say in the past month she's made some gains but more on those in the next update...)

OK, the last piece of the puzzle- her overall cognitive development.  When I took Stella to her regular doctor in May, he expressed some concerns with her overall development.  Concerns that I greatly share.  There is definitely something different about Stella, but no one can put their finger on it.  She is very social, never meets a stranger, and is generally a happy baby.  But there are things that push her over the edge, and it's a nightmare to get her to snap out of it.  Some of the major things that set her off are public restrooms (can't say I blame her there!), elevators, the scale at the doctor's office, when her motion comes to a stop (in the stroller, car, shopping cart, etc...), and when you try to re-direct her if she really has her mind set on something (common for kids I know, but Stella takes it to a whole other level).  She thrashes in your arms, bangs her head, and screams.  Full blown meltdowns.  The public ones are the worst.  I get so frustrated because I see kids do that often, and it's usually a result of no discipline at home.  Mark and I are very consistent with Stella and she does NOT get her way.  Yet she still thinks she's in charge.  So at this point we think there's more going on.  I hate to throw a diagnosis out there when no official one has been made, but there are a few things we are wondering about and I am happy to say that tomorrow we will be taking Stella to a pediatric developmental specialist at OSF in Peoria (her regular doctor referred us there).  He is rumored to be very stern yet excellent at his job.  I can handle that.  At this point I just want to know what's going on so we can give her the help she needs.  I have been doing some research on different things and preparing a lot for this appointment.  It took us 4 months to get in so to say we are ready is an understatement.  Keeping in mind that we love Stella more than anything no matter what, and that she is a beautiful, unique, happy and healthy girl, all prayers are appreciated as we navigate this journey.
Thought it was pretty funny to have kitty ride elephant!

The Routine:

Eating is one of Stella's strong points ;-)  She loves almost everything, although veggies aren't a favorite (except sweet corn!)  As I mentioned before, we did cut out dairy for these few months.  Thankfully Stella loved vanilla soy milk, but after hearing a lot of negatives about soy we did switch to almond milk.  We mix half vanilla with half unsweetened to give it a little taste but cut some of the sugar.  This works well for her!  At 20.5 months I was determined to get her to start using a big-girl sippy cup.  She bit holes in all the nipples of her old cups, so it was time.  Of course she refused and threw them at first, so one determined mama spent the majority of one morning teaching her.  I held her like a new baby and put it in her mouth, a little at a time, dripping milk out of it onto her mouth, until she finally started sucking out of the cup.  And then just like that she was fine and has used them ever since.  Stubborn little thing!

Still using her baby tub.  Once she started crawling she kind of slimmed down.  Now it's safe to say she is actually petite!  She must have daddy's metabolism because she eats like a horse!  She weighed in at 24 pounds (60%) at her doctor check up and is currently still in 18 month clothes.

Stella is still sleeping from about 8pm-8am with a 1-2 hour nap from about 1:30-3:30.  She did start to think she was too big for a nap and refused to sleep for a few days.  We started playing the TV music box on her crib set to the nature settings, and it put her out immediately.  Now I have to play that almost every day to get her to sleep.  I tried to save it for days when she REALLY needed a nap, but as long as it works I guess we'll roll with it!  Mama loves nap time (that's what time it is right now in fact!)

A few of Stella's favorite things: 
  • Highlighters, pens and pencils
  • Sitting at the computer watching videos of Ryder with mommy
  • Being outside (wagon rides, sitting at the deck table with mommy, swinging, playing on a blanket in the grass)
  • Hanging out with daddy
  • Trying to play with Kaiser
  • Reading books
  • Music, dancing, and learning to sing
  • Snuggles (hugs around 19 months and kisses around 20 months!)
  • Building pillow forts on the couch (and getting up and down from the couch all day!)
  • Her new table and chairs
  • Painting her toenails with Aunt Abby
  • Giving high 5's
  • Playing out in the shop with daddy

Around the house:
  •  Mark's new job is going well, but the drive (about 35 minutes one way) is starting to wear on him.  We looked at one house and one piece of land so far, but nothing fits yet.  Hoping that dream home comes up on the market soon!  We are slowly but surely working around our house to get it ready to sell.  Not too much to do, Mark's been doing some landscaping and I haven't been doing much.  Just keeping it real!  Lots of sorting and organizing to do (and probably a yard sale) but I'm saving that for winter when we're cooped up inside :-)
  • I know I still need to do a postpartum "after" update about my journey losing the baby weight and recovering from an awful c-section.  I have that on my to-do list, should get done in October.  Just trying to get Stella's situation all figured out and enjoy my favorite time of year for the time being, but it is coming up I promise!

As always, visit my Facebook page HERE for more pictures of our beautiful girl.  I only put a small portion of them on here ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sweet Summertime (2015)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people rush the seasons and holidays.  By the time the actual season/holiday arrives, you are already burnt out on it!  I wish society could just slow down and take the time to appreciate each special holiday and season while it's here.  My summer starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day (maybe it's just the former teacher in me).  This summer I decided to just unplug and really enjoy my time with Stella.  We spent a lot of time hanging around the house and playing outside (I say "playing" lightly because there's only so much you can do with a toddler who won't walk and is afraid of the grass!)  We also worked a lot on her speech, gross motor and fine motor skills (with some good progress!)  I will be doing another blog post this weekend with more on that (her 21 Month update finally).  Anyway...unplugging was so nice.  Other than my blog and facebook, I don't do any social media.  I don't even have a smartphone.  I just don't want to become a victim of being glued to my phone.  That's not to say I'll never upgrade, anymore they are pretty much forcing everyone to, but for now I like my pay-as-you-go Wal Mart phone ;-)   So for the summer I decided to delete my facebook for a few months and just detach altogether.  not the kind of "hey facebook I'm deleting my account here's my number if you need me" kind of attention-grabbing delete, just a general mind detox and to dedicate all of myself to my family (not just say I am and then secretly keep logging on when I think people won't notice.  Can you tell I have friends who do this?)  And it was GREAT.  I think social media is nice and can serve a great purpose, but too many people rely on it to validate their looks, parenting, career, etc...  I think a little break benefits everyone now and then.

So off my soapbox and onto our summer...

We kicked summer off with a pretty low-key Memorial Day weekend.  We did a picnic at the park in Atkinson with Stella's cousins, and then a Sunday cook-out at my sisters complete with wagon rides courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa.

Relaxing after a fun day at the park with Beau and Mo

The first week of June was Mark's last week of work for Ag View.  We celebrated his last day with a fun cook-out at home.  He took a 4 day weekend in-between jobs, which fell over our hometown's annual Fun Days celebration.  Saturday we went to the local bar for Mark's 15-year class reunion.  We got together right after he graduated high school, so it also marked 15 years since we've been together.  Time flies when you're having fun!  We stayed in town at my mom's that night since we'd had a few drinks, and took Stella to the parade the next morning (which is really just a long line of firetrucks and tractors!).  She LOVED the parade and watched very intently.  Afterwards we got some carnival food and then headed home because we ALL needed naps!

Think we all feel like this after Fun Days!
Almost every Tuesday in June was spent in town at my sisters (her day off) so Stella could play with her cousins.  She enjoyed just sitting on a blanket all day playing with Ryder's toys while the boys swam and played with squirt guns! 

Can't wait to be big enough for the picnic table!
June 18th brought our 4th anniversary.  We celebrated the day with  a steak dinner at home on the patio and watching the sun set after Stella went to bed.  The next night we went out to One World Cafe in Peoria (great variety of delicious food, fun atmosphere and excellent drinks!) and then we picked up some wine and dessert at Hy Vee and enjoyed it at home while watching our wedding video (yearly tradition!)

Our wedding was on Father's Day weekend, so we always celebrate the two of them around the same time.  This year for Father's Day I cooked a brunch for us at home.  Mark chose to mess around outside all afternoon, and then we went to a cook-out at his parents that evening.

Stella even made a "hand-made" card for Daddy this year!

The end of June brought another round of sickness for us (surprised?)  This one hung on right into July and we were just recovering when the 4th of July hit.  I also woke up one morning with TMJ again.  I had to go to the clinic and they told me I grind my teeth too hard at night.  I wear my retainers (from all my previous dental work) almost every night, but both mornings I woke up with TMJ I hadn't worn them the night before.  Every night now it is!  TMJ is MISERABLE, and this time they wouldn't give me a shot or painkillers like last time (probably because that time I went to the ER).  So for the 4th we just stayed around home since we were all recovering.  We went to fireworks and a cook-out at a friends in Geneseo Friday night, and Saturday I took Stella to my grandpa's pool for a little family swim party and cookout while Mark did some landscaping.

Gotta have red, white and blue pancakes on the 4th!

At the end of July Mark had his seed kickoff meetings in Chicago.  They invited wives to attend, so we went up there for a couple of days.  Unfortunately I wasn't feeling the best so it really wasn't that great of a time.  This string of sickness I tell ya!  I just hung around the hotel room while Mark attended meetings all day, and then we went to a dinner/drinks banquet in the hotel that night.  The next day we did some shopping at Oakbrook before heading home to get our babies :-)

August was a great month.  The weather was beautiful and we made it through the ENTIRE month without being sick!!  We started the month with a White Sox game for Mark and a family pool party for Stella and I.  We played a lot at home and took several trips to Windmont park to enjoy the walking path and swings.

Trying her best to climb up to the slide!

On the 23rd we had Stella baptized.  We went with a low-key, family only ceremony after church in Mineral.  We asked the pastor who married us to baptize Stella.  It was a hot day, but she did very well and didn't even cry!  It was a nice little ceremony and I am so happy to (officially) bring her into God's family. 

After the ceremony we went to the Station House in Kewanee for lunch.  The service was awful, but the food was good and everyone had a nice time, especially Stella!  She loves going out to eat.  While trying to get a photo next to her cake (that a girl Mark used to work with made, and it was beautiful!) Stella grabbed a huge handful and took a bite!  Musta thought it was her 1st birthday again! 

The week after her baptism we had family pictures taken.  I just picked out our favorites and ordered some adorable framed collages so I will be sharing those soon.  The pictures are beautiful and the photographer is brilliant! 

To kind of wrap-up our summer we decided to take a weekend get-away.  I love taking trips, exploring, sight-seeing and flying, but you usually need a vacation after your trip because you are so exhausted so this time we opted for just a relaxing, nothing on our agenda vacation.  Much like our summer!

Mark just loves being outside and nature and Stella takes after daddy in that department.  Don't get me wrong I love nature, I just like enjoying it while in a comfortable, screened in porch ;-)  I hate being too hot or too cold!  But I'm trying to adapt and get better at it, so this vacation was centered around Mark's interests.  I booked us a little cabin outside of Shelbyville, IL for two nights.  Mark took Friday off.  I spent the morning packing (I had made a list the night before so it would go smoothly) and getting things in order around the house (I hate coming home to a messy house after vacation).  We left Kaiser in his outdoor kennel and Mark's aunt and uncle stopped over a few times a day to feed him.  The plan was to also let him out, but he was being very territorial and protective so he just stayed in his kennel (which was OK, plenty of indoor/outdoor space for bathroom breaks and sleeping).  We were surprised he acted like this, but I suppose it is a good thing that he protects the house while we're away.  Because otherwise he is the friendliest, most gentle dog you'll every meet! 

We left around 12:30 and stopped in Peoria at Panera for lunch.  Stella loved it of course and ate her entire PB&J meal!  We drove on through from there (it was about a 3 hour drive from our house), stopping at Casey's in Shelbyville for snacks and drinks.  After a little trouble finding the place, we finally got all checked in.  It is owned by a family and rented out.  The cabin sits on 40 acres and is surrounded by a state park on 3 sides.  There was a little private lake right next to the cabin and trails carved out throughout the woods around the house. 

After some exploring we headed back to town for some groceries.  By the time we got back to the cabin Stella was pretty tired so we put her right to bed.  Mark and I had hot dogs and s'mores and a few drinks by the fire before bed.  We turned in pretty early because we wanted to enjoy the early morning.

Saturday morning brought a little drizzle, but when that ended Mark walked the trails while I took a quick nap in the living room until Stella got up.  We spend the morning lounging and enjoying cinnamon rolls.  After that we headed outside to walk to trails, sit outside and just relax some more.  We had a light lunch inside and then put Stella down for a nap.  While she napped Mark took a nap in the boat on the lake and I enjoyed some coffee and reading from the front porch.  It was great!  After Stella's nap I was itching for a trip to town.  We got cleaned up and headed to Shelbyville.  We placed an order for pizza at Joe's Pizza and then walked the historical downtown until it was ready.  Back at the cabin we had pizza and wine, then treated Stella to her first s'more.  She loved it, naturally!  Mark and I sat by the fire after Stella went to bed.  There was a skunk that wouldn't leave us alone!  We also saw an opossum.  Very interesting night!

Sunday morning we slept in and then had some coffee and breakfast.  Mark took Stella and I for a quick boat ride.  She loved it!  We walked the trails a bit and sat outside, but then it was time to shower and pack up since check out was at noon.  We were gone by 12:30.

We stopped at IHOP for a late lunch on the way home.  Stella slept most of the ride home...a sure sign of a good vacation!  Kaiser was sure happy to see us when we returned!  It was a wonderful weekend getaway, one that we hope to take again soon!

September had been mostly very HOT so Indian summer!  Of course our AC broke not once but TWICE during the hottest week of the summer.  We ended the summer with a family pool party over Labor day weekend and Mark took Stella to the annual Labor Day parade in Bradford (I sat this year out :-) ) 

Loved the big pool by the end of summer!

Next summer I hope to actually do more things with Stella.  It was hard this summer with her mobile limitations, but I am happy to say she is starting to (slowly) walk and is no longer afraid of grass!  I just learned to make the best of it and enjoy the slow pace this summer allowed. 

Now I can officially close the page on summer and begin my FAVORITE season of all time...FALL!  Tomorrow morning we are doing a 5K by the canal in our hometown (we also had one last weekend!), and next week we are going to the pumpkin patch and doing some fall decorating and cleaning.  The weather is beautiful, the windows are open, the pumpkin candles are purchased, and I am excited :-)  Hope everyone else enjoyed their summer and have some fun plans for fall!