Monday, September 29, 2008

The Little Weekend

Yeah, um, I'm not so sure what happened to last week. As a whole. Missing. Gone. Busy.
Whatever it is that has kept me from blogging, it sure has been keeping me busy. So let me just pop in over to the start of our weekend. That was only a few days ago, I can surely remember some noteworthy points of interest from then.

For the past few weeks, we have experienced incredible weather and perfectly comfortable temperatures both day and night. This is the same reason that on Friday night, Eric decided to build a fire in our fire pit and enjoy the almost-fall season. It's only the second time that we've taken both kids out at bedtime to cuddle on our laps and watch the fire, but surely just the beginning of a nice tradition. The last time, Lincoln was entirely too wiggly and Elaina just wanted to eat marshmallows. Straight from the bag. This time Lincoln cuddled on my lap contently sucking his thumb and Elaina was endless help tossing kindling and sticks into the fire. Only one time did she get slightly closer than I would have preferred, but in her tender age of 3, I think she showed much respect and caution in regard to distancing herself from the fire pit.

The part I enjoy most about sitting by the fire in the night air, is that it reminds me of so many nights my family spent camping as we were growing up. We were always the family that had the biggest fire, the best popcorn and the biggest circle of old and new friends gazing into the warm, open flames. While we don't have any intention of camping until our kids are older, I so much want our kids to be able to reflect back on their childhood and have such fond memories of such simple things as enjoying a toasty, warm campfire.

On Saturday, Eric tackled some projects outside and Elaina and I baked cookies inside while Lincoln napped. After many delays and interruptions, we finally made our way to a fall festival I had read about in the local newspaper. We arrived a full hour before it was scheduled to end and everything had already been packed up, cleared out and cleaned up. Apparently, a light rain shower had passed through and they decided to close down early. I was hugely disappointed for the kids until we learned that the people at The Little Gym were welcoming everyone to play in their facility. And as we are huge lovers of PBS, and The Little Gym just happens to be a proud sponsor, I have always been curious as to what all it has to offer. This was a great opportunity for the kids to run, bounce, swing, play and slide with no limitations. The best part is that they practically had the place to themselves as there were only a handful of kids left playing.

Even though we missed the activities I intended upon, The Little Gym was great (free) fun for the kids. And while I'm not willing to make the 40 minute drive (one way) to enroll my kids in their classes, I was happy to see what it's all about. Do these kids look happy to you?

As much as I had been looking forward to a fall festival day with my family, I have to admit, I was very much looking forward to Sunday which was a girls' day out. Three of my girlfriends and myself ventured out early in the morning to make the hour and a half trip to Ikea in Pittsburgh. I proved to be a disappointment to myself because I was totally off my game that day and didn't manage to score any super-fantastic finds or even great deals. How did that happen? We even went to the mall and I found nothing. I must be coming down with something. All in all, it was a great day to spend with my friends and the better part was getting home mid-afternoon and still having plenty enough time to spend with my family.

How's that for a fun, little weekend update? This week, I'll try to do better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

However. Late. Anyhow.

While these pictures aren't exactly fresh from the memory card, they were still taken with the intent to post and worth the viewing. Here are some clips from my favorite moments in the past few weeks.

This was taken at our favorite park about 30 minutes from our house. This time, we remembered to bring some bread to feed the ducks and geese. Elaina was the "feeder" while Lincoln watched intently from his stroller. Next year he'll be big enough to throw on his own.
The first day our power went out, I stayed home from work and McDonald's was the closest place that still had power, thus providing a warm meal. There were at least 5 other moms there donning their ball caps (from not showering)(no power) with their anxiety-ridden children in tow. Lincoln was such a big boy exploring all of the tunnels he could maneuver. Since Elaina hardly stood still for longer than a second, this is the best picture I could capture. While playing with the other kids at the play area, I paused to hear that Elaina's voice was the loudest, serving as the director-of-pretend to all the children within earshot. She wasn't so much bossy, which I'm happy about, but she was definitely the ring leader to make sure everyone was going about the same pretend mission as herself.

On Monday evening, (our first night without power) we drove an hour and a half away to a friend's house to borrow a generator. We ate dinner at a restaurant and dressed the kids in their jammies right in the restaurant, ready for the long trip home and straight into bed in our already dark house.
This past Sunday, a friend of mine came over with her daughter, Ali so that the girls could enjoy a fun dress-up play date together. Every time I tried to take a picture of the girls posing in their finery, Lincoln wandered right in front of the camera, completely obstructing my view of the girls. He was like an ant at a picnic, coming over to see what we had for him. Lucky for him, I'm always happy to take a picture of his sweet, goldfish-chomping face!
Drum roll please.... ta-da-ta-da! The Fanciest Friends ever! Ali-bug and Driving Miss 'Laina.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Because Nobody Likes IKE

Just in case you missed it, thousands of Ohio residents became the latest victims of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Since a huge-a-freakin-normous wind storm passed through our area on Sunday night, we became a tally mark on the long list of areas without power. The storm, ironically without a single drop of rain, left mounds of destruction and debris all over our neighborhoods, tattered homes and uprooted trees from their cemented bases. I haven't even had a chance to post a picture of our lovely, new sun canopy we've added to our back patio, the one that has the nice netting panels with split sides that roll back and the one that Eric just (Saturday night) strung the frame with rope lights, but it's that one that is now bent, warped and uneven as a result of the high winds. I would have loved to show you how pretty it was. But not anymore.

Also, I had wanted to reserve a chunk of time Sunday evening to write about my parent's weekend visit and how we had such a good time hanging out and not doing too much of anything but laughing and playing with the kids, and how they had to drive back to their house in the thick of the wind storm. Alas, no power, no blogging, just good memories.

What I can do is recap some of our days living like the amish. After only an hour without power, I was desperately missing my luxurious, well-lit, appliance-efficient lifestyle. Hello Spoiled American. After nearly 72 hours of camping out in our house, we finally regained power on Wednesday morning. It was a blessed event if ever there was.

Things that I have learned to love about being in the dark:

Really getting to know how resilient my kids are. Although Elaina had asked to watch Noggin every single day without fail, she really made considerable adjustments and has enjoyed reading bedtimes books by the light of the lantern and sleeping in our bed. The power outage hasn't fazed Lincoln in the least. I've paid more attention to how well my kids play together and entertain themselves with the toys that they have in front of them. Their easy dispositions have made this ordeal bearable for all of us.

I never take friendships for granted and friends with generators available for loan are even better! We were able to save most of the food from our refrigerator and freezers, including the half side of pork we just picked up 10 days ago.

I found myself enjoying earlier bedtimes for all of us. We had to get the kids into a quick bedtime schedule since it becomes pitch black outside and inside, right around 8:00. And since there isn't particularly much housework I could do without power cords and appliances, and most certainly no internet browsing, I was able to fall asleep to the tune of the frantic hum of the generator around 10:00.

Lord, what would we have without a gas hot water heater? Take cold showers, that's what we would do. Amen! for hot water showers and no water shortage! And candlelit showers are always calming don't you agree?

I very much enjoyed the team work and partnership of my husband. Since we had limited time before the sun went down and lantern time began, we learned to rush through our evening routine to keep as much consistency for the kids.

As anal as I may be sometimes about having everything in it's proper place and housework kept up as much as possible, I certainly found it all working in our favor while accessing things that we needed by candlelight.

Since Wednesday, things have gradually been getting back to normal around here. There are still plenty of people without electricity, but we all have to consider ourselves fortunate that we've hardly had the burden and hardship to deal with as the residents in Texas. And even though I found myself shaky and filled with anxiety about what our week had in store for us as the electric company predicted an entire week without power, we managed and we managed well.

Tomorrow is Sunday once again and the forecast is looking sunny. I still plan to reserve a chunk of time in my evening to finally post some pictures and hopefully get back in the swing of things on the blog front. Until, let our thoughts and prayers be with those who have suffered even greater burdens than us without lights and conveniences.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Party ON!

Since I haven't posted in a few days since my Fisher Price party, did anyone begin to wonder if I survived? No? A party in which babies and toddlers outnumber the adults and in the home of someone who can't stand not having symmetrical pillow shapes flanking the sofas? ( <---- okay, I'm really not that obsessed, but I really do like the appearance of symetric pillow shapes on my sofa)

Well, let me just tell you about my cool party. Eric spent Friday night putting together all of the toys and learning how to hook up the (super cool) wireless, "Smart Bounce & Spin pony" and we hid all of the new toys in another room until the guests arrived. And speaking of my party guests, there was a little issue with that. Fisher Price encouraged each hostess to invite at least 10 kids aged 6-24 months that were certain to attend. The problem I ran into was that I didn't necessarily want to invite too many more than 10 because I only had 10 nifty FP party favor bags to give to my guests. As the day drew nearer and most everyone was confirmed, I learned that 2 (sibs) guests were battling a cold the morning of the party, one kid came down with a super high fever and two of the moms of my potential guests, had work obligations and couldn't make it. I ended up with 7 kids in all, counting my kids. Not as nutty, crazy, busy, messy, loud and crowded as I suspected and I was alright with that.

The kids all had a really great time playing with the new Fisher Price toys which made for great photo opportunities, just as Houseparty had expected. I made such a point to capture the guest-children in poses, taking for granted that I would have plenty of pictures of my kids as always, but the opposite was true. My little Turdletts only wanted to play on the slide because I moved it to a new area of the living room. Twice. Turds.

Here is a link to my party page on their website. Look for Lincoln wearing an orange shirt and Elaina in long ponytails and a white shirt. Somehow they managed to stay mostly clear from the camera and were just as happy to have other kids to play with at their house. I drew two lucky winners to take home 2 of the younger age category toys and kept the 2 toys that I saw my Monkeys enjoying the most.

All that has asked for in return is to simply complete a short survey about the party, posting pictures and videos to the their party website and a comment on their blog that highlights the fun we had at my party.

Hooray for Fisher Price and great, free toys! It was an awesome experience for me and my guests, now go sign up and when you get selected to host a fabulous, new party, don't forget to invite me over!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

How Awesome is this?

If you recall from my 50 Random Things post a short while back, I mentioned that I got selected to host a Fisher Price party through

So here I am to gush about the caliber of awesomeness of which I am so excited to be a part of. First of all, I came across information on through a random bargain blog that I read and went over and signed up a quick little profile of myself and hoped that something peeked my interest that I could experience a party of my own. The whole concept of hosting a houseparty boils down to select families across the U.S. are chosen to host a theme-type party in which a major company sponsors to get real reviews, reactions and opinions from real, live potential customers. The company sends you a boat load of free goodies that they want feedback on and in turn, you host your friends over to party with you and all they ask in return is your feedback and pictures posted on their Houseparty blog. Easy! Awesome!

When I first signed on, I was a bummed out because I had missed the sign up for hosting a taste testing of the new Hershey's Bliss chocolate candy that has recently hit the stores. (BTW: DELISH!) The company continued to send e-mail announcements of party themes to host and Fisher Price soon struck my eye as they were looking for kids aged 6-24 months and I already have one of those! Plus, I know lots of those!

Out of over 100,000 registrants who applied for the Fisher Price party, only 1,000 were selected. The specifics required to the host to have 10 or more 6-24 month old children in attendance and hold the party between Sept. 6-7. That way 10,000 families are hosting the same party all across the U.S. at the very same time. How cool is that?

The really, really awesome part of the whole party is that Fisher Price has sent me such an incredible load of new toys and age appropriate party favors for each guest. Also included were gift bags, coupons, product manuals and batteries. Seriously!
Here are some pictures of my jackpot:

The Party Favors:

The following are mine to keep, but seriously, do my kids really need 4 new giant toys and where would I put them? I've chosen to keep 2 of my kids' favorites and pull 2 guests' names from a hat to win the other 2. Surely there will be 2 very appreciative babies and mom's who can enjoy these way more than my kids.

If you have a 6-24 month old kiddo and no plans for Saturday, stop on over, it sounds like my house is going to be a full blown Fisher Price fun house. Do you think I'll survive this? I have a lot of cleaning to do. Before and after. oh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Heading West: West Virginia, that is

For this lovely 3 day weekend we held true to what has become another annual tradition of going to spend Labor Day at Eric's grandma's house in West Virginia. Mamaw just lives on the outskirts of Charleston which gives us the added bonus of celebrating the Sternwheel Regatta Festival while we're there.

Because we were there from Friday until Monday, I'll just share half of the load of pictures that I took and highlight the most fun, sweet and unforgettable moments of our trip. Our first night, we foolishly thought that Lincoln would sleep happily in his pack 'n play. Imagine our weary dismay when he began to cry to get out of it at 3:30 in the morning. Eric lay Lincoln in between us in our bed where he flopped around for 2 hours and then began to scream at 5:30 a.m., waking up the entire house. Needless to say, our first day was off to a rocky start but with a much needed scheduled nap time for the whole family in the early afternoon.

Since it was near 90 outside, we sought out a cooler climate and free entertainment in the mall. Both kids loved playing with the oversized train table in the most awesome toy store. Lincoln picked out his favorite train cars and didn't want to ever give them up. Elaina made a little seat for herself out of a package and played with the doll house filled with little bear people and pint sized furniture.When we arrived back at Mamaw's house, we were pleasantly surprised to walk in on a toddler bed set up in our bedroom with a giant, full, Winnie the Pooh comforter set atop of it. Eric's aunt and uncle who live nearby, so kindly brought over these accommodations that they use for their grandchildren for our kids to enjoy. Our lucky day, indeed. We lined the pack 'n play with the comforter and Elaina slept happily in a perfect sized bed for her. Aaah, the beauty of a good night's sleep! Thank you very much Gail and Ernie!

On Sunday we ventured out to the Regatta Festival held on the river bank, packed with food, entertainment and rides. The inflatable slide was awesome for Elaina and she wore herself out by making at least 15 trips up and down the slide until she was so sweaty and flushed we had to make her stop. Lincoln was finally big enough to ride some rides too. I don't think I would have been especially trusting if Elaina wasn't at his side, but Elaina would never let anyone or anything harm her baby brother. Who's that in the back seat of the crazy car ride? Why, it's me and Lincoln. Eric finally stepped behind the camera and with some stroke of luck, I actually look like I went on a family trip with my family! There's finally proof that I was there! (Tangerine shirt, visor, baby to the right... it's ME!) (And look where Lincoln's arm rests. LOOK. It looks like a giant fat roll seeping from underneath my shirt. And that leaves me to critique my picture. Maybe this is why I'm never in any ;-)) And this would be Mamaw. Eric's grandmother who is 85 years young and still believes and lives good, old southern hospitality. For her, it's all about family and good cooking. Thanks for a great visit Mamaw! I love this tree. The actual tree stump is grounded off to the left. Years ago the tree was struck by lightning and bent just so that it planted itself upright to begin to grow in a new direction. (Tracy, eat your heart out at this photo op! You could spend all day capturing angles and poses with this tree.) Here, Eric was tossing Lincoln in the air and on one particularly high toss, he got hollered at by not only his wife but his Mamaw too! ERIC!! But if only you could hear Lincoln's belly laughs bursting from his little self. Look! There's a Buckeye in the West Virginia tree! Eric, do you just want to be hollered at by your wife?Just before we left, Eric's Aunt Debbie got some help picking tomatoes from the garden. Elaina already asked to come back next year to help when the tomatoes are even bigger, like she will be.
And the tradition lives on.