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Friday, April 30, 2010

Family Fun on a Budget - Use Facebook

I didn't realize until recently, that many of my budget friendly family weekends are events that I find on Facebook. It really is a great tool to use when you are trying to find family event's though.

My first tip - Many towns have facebook pages now, so sign up for your towns page along with pages of other local towns. I have found that they post just about everything that is going on around town.
  • We went to a FREE Kite Festival at the beach last weekend. The weather was perfect and Brady loved flying his kite (they also gave kites and bubbles to the children for free). I also found out about a family event we will be attending this weekend.



















  • The town next to us has a Duck Race - you buy a plastic bath duck (money goes to fund other FREE town events) for $5 all the ducks go in the water and which ever one gets across first wins...they have over 100 prizes ranging from $25 restaurant gift certificates to a family trip to Disney or a LCD TV. This event also has plenty of FREE / relatively free aspects as well. They start with a craft / business fair, they have a kids fun run (1/2 mile), they have bounce houses and crafts for the children, as well as entertainment (magicians, local dance groups,etc...)
  • We (and when I say we I mean my husband is bringing Brady at 6am and Ethan and I will arrive around 9) are also bringing Brady to a fishing derby this weekend. He did his first one at the end of last summer and he enjoyed it (though he did get a little bored toward the end) so we are trying it again.
...and these are just the events over the past two weeks. You will notice that you will see more and more of these types of events throughout the spring and summer and into the fall (for you people in nice climate States, you will probably find the events year round). So start looking for your town and other local towns on Facebook.

My second tip - Pay attention to the events that your Facebook Friends are attending. Specifically, the friends that have children in that same age range as yours. I don't know about you, but I tend to ignore the "XX is attending....." but then I started looking at them and realized that it is a great way to find out about what is going on locally.
  • I saw that a friends facebook said that they were attending a Halloween Candy Hunt....When I looked into it further I saw that our town was having a free event for children (residents of our town only) at a playground in town. It was in the evening and the children got dressed up in their costumes, decorated pumpkins (Brady won for his age), and hunted around the playground for candy.  We had a really good time and I think I would have had even more fun if I wasn't 8 1/2 months pregnant.  We will be keeping an eye out for that again this year.

















My third tip - Join local groups on facebook.  I am on many things from a mommy group in my area to a St. Patricks day parade fundraising group. 

    This is how we found out about the "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast that we attended a couple of months ago (among other things). I joined the FB group for an area Irish Club and they were having this fundraiser to get new books for some of the schools a few towns away. If you brought a book you had breakfast for half price...if not the money would go to purchase the books. The Cat in the Hat was there and they read stories and had Dr. Suess themed games and raffels and of course they served green eggs and ham for breakfast. This was obviously not a free event, but it was a great family event. We would definately do this one in the future too.

    My first month of blogging

    Yesterday was one month since my first post. Even if nobody ever read my blog I am so happy to be recording the day to day activities / achievements of my little guys (and really, the entire family). What better way is there to make sure that you remember all the crazy things that your little one's do - that can easily be forgotten once the move on to the next crazy thing (I could easily forget the four year old swinging on the curtains, once he rubs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all over his naked stomach) - and in the long run I could probably forget both of those items because at the end of the day they aren't the most important things that your children will do...but I don't want to forget. So I will try to continue to capture all these events right here.

    Other than these fun and sometimes not-so-fun stories...I am hoping that I can provide my readers and followers some great information and advice in my Travel Tip Tuesday and Why I Love it Wednesday posts

    I was so lucky to start blogging prior to the Ultimate Blog Party. It allowed me to *meet* so many other blogging moms and read great stories / see great pictures from all of their family adventures. I want to thank all of you who have been visiting / following my blog so far. Please feel free to provide any feedback or advice that you may have at any time.

    Once again, thank you everyone for making me feel so welcome in the blogging world during my first month.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    HELP...Blog Button

    I want to make a button for my blog but dont have a clue where to
    start. I think I saw a post from someone recently but now I cant seem
    to find it.

    Can sombody please give me some pointers or point me in the right
    direction for where I can find some instructions?

    Thanks...

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Why I Love it Wedenesday: Keurig Coffee Maker


    Honestly, this is one of my favorite things I have ever owned. We actually got it for Christmas from my husbands aunt so I have had a few months to fall in love with it even more. We got the platinum version - which makes not only the hot tea and coffee, but also has an iced coffee setting. Ok so I admit it...I am a coffeeholic. I probably drink as much coffee in a day as most people drink in a week. Having said that, my husband and I would still dump out half pots of coffee because it was sitting around for too long or I would decided that I wanted a flavor coffee instead of the regular in the coffee pot. Now there is no waste. Plus its quick - I can make a cup of coffee on my way out the door (put k-cup in, get purse, phone, coat - by the time I am ready to go so is my coffee).

    I find that it is fun too. When you have a few people over for dinner they can select which type of coffee they want. You can make four cups of coffe with four different flavors. They have some fun flavors too - around the holidays that had gingerbread, french toast, egg nog (which I wasn't daring enough to try)...but they also have more normal light, medium and dark coffes as well as espresso. They have teas as well. There is something for everyone's taste.

    Some people worry that the cups are too expensive. I will admit they aren't cheap, but you can get them in the $0.40 a cup range - sometimes cheaper if you want to buy the 80 cup box at one of the wholesale clubs (Sam's Club, Costco etc...) or if you want to sign up for recurring deliveries from Amazon.com. They also sell the k-cups at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Macey's and Kohls - so if you are looking to save money on the wait until you get a good coupon from one of those stores and stock up. I usually get 18 for $6.99 at Stop and Shop, because I am lazy...and that is fine with me.

    If you don't want the added expense of the K-cups there is also a filter that you can buy to put in the place of the k-cup. This will allow you to brew your favorite coffee without buying the k-cup. This will keep your costs down, and still allow you the convienence of a one cup coffe maker. I do have to say I like the fact that you don't have to feel commited to buying the cups all the time.

    If you are a coffee addict (or even if you are not) you will love this machine. I highly recommend checking it out.

    See my other Why I Love it Wednesday posts

    ...and this is why I am fat

    Birthday Cake day at work - for everyone with April Birthdays. Maybe I
    should skip lunch.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Travel Tip Tuesday: Keeping your children occupied in the car

    For the most part the traveling that we have done since having children has been in the car (the only time that we have flown was to Disney). For those of you who have gone on long road trips with your children (or even short ones) you know that no matter what size car you have it gets small VERY quickly when traveling. I love that my four year old loves to play pretend - it is great for them...but when you are "trapped" in the car for 6 or 7 hours and your child is constantly saying "you be Sarah and I will be Littlefoot - Land before time" or "you be Brittney and I will be Simon, daddy can be Alvin and Ethan will be Theadore- Chipmunks"...and the list goes on. He honestly would pretend for hours...

    What do I do? I guess if I was a wonderful Supermommy I would just play pretend for 12 hours straight - but I am not. So I find other things to occupy him in the car.

    1.) I know some people will strongly disagree - but get a portable DVD player. Now I don't like to let my little guy watch too much TV, but on the rare occasion that you are in the car for multiple hours it really can be a lifesaver. Ours does not stay in the car (so there is no screaming and yelling when you child wants to watch Cars - even thought you are just going down the street). We just bring it when we are going on longer road trips. Oh and be sure to get headphones so that you don't all have to listen to whatever you childs favorite movie of the moment is.

    2.) Bring books - Even if your child isn't reading yet, it gives them something to look at do and should occupy them for a bit. Make sure to bring their favorites, that will keep them occupied longer. For young children, bring board books so you don't have to worry about pages being ripped out / falling out if the child is being a little rough with the book. We also have a Story Reader that we bring in the car with us sometimes you can also attach headphones and it will read the story to your children. Obviously this is good because you will also have bedtime stories that you can read when you get to your destination.

    3.) Coloring books and crayons - These are great for the car...though you will want to make sure that the crayons don't get dropped and then crushed into your floor. As long as you keep a look out you should be fine. If you child likes to color this could keep them busy for a long time.

    4.) Small Toys - Obviously you want to make sure that they won't pose a hazard. So make sure that it is big enough that they won't be swallowed (if you have very young ones). Things like Play Doh (this one is questionable - your child will have to be old enough to know that it must all get back in the container), action figures, stuffed animals work well for us.

    5.) Hand held video games - We do not have them...but if your children do this can be a great way to keep your children busy on long car rides.

    6.) Bring snacks - Within minutes of leaving the rest stop your children (who weren't hungry 10 minutes ago) will now be starving. To cut down on the amount of stops and additional time added to your trip, pack some snacks. We actually tend to pack sandwiches as well. You can easily eat them in the car and they will be much better for you than whatever you choose to grab from the fast food places at the rest stops.

    Some things that we always pack are:

    Bottles of water

    Juice Boxes

    Sandwiches (or the items to make sandwiches)

    Fruit snacks

    Trader Joe's Crushers

    possibly chips

    Fruit (like a banana that isn't too sticky / juicy)

    Cheese and crakers

    Dried Fruit (raisins, cranberries and other dried fruit mixes)

    Cut Fresh Veggies - if you want a dip use hummus instead of a dressing. It is more substaintial, more healthy and thicker so it is less messy

    Try to avoid:

    Soda (the cans and bottles will envitably spill and everyone and everything will be sticky)

    Jello

    Pudding

    Yogurt (though if you go with the yogurt tubes they are less messy and should be fine)

    Keep in mind that any snack that is messy at home will be 100 times more messy in the car.

    Other tips for traveling by car:

    - When possible travel during nap / sleep times. We are planning a trip that will include an 8 hour car ride - we are leaving at 5pm so that we can stop between 7 and 8 to get both kids feed (Brady will probably have a sandwich in the car before that - but Ethan will need to eat) and ready to sleep(bathroom / diaper and comfy clothes). The hope is that they will sleep the rest of the way down there - which means we will be making less stops too.

    - Plan your stops in advance and around your children's schedule. If they normally eat lunch a noon and you plan to wait until 1 to stop, you will most likely be dealing with a cranky child for the better part of that hour. If you figure out approximately where you will be at the time (obviously it is hard to account for traffic) you can look online or in a travel guide for a nice family friendly place to stop.

    - If your children aren't great in the car, break up the trip. Drive halfway on day one. When you stop, find something for your kids to do to get their energy out that evening (swimming, mini golf, etc...). Then get up the next morning and drive the rest of the way - hopefully you will get there in tim to plan something fun for that evening as well.

    - Be flexible. As much as I recommend planning, in detail how your trip will go, when you are with the little ones you need to be flexible. If you know that they are about to fall asleep stop sooner than originally planned. This will allow them a bathroom break / snack break which means that they will sleep better when they get back in the car. If you wait until you get to where you planned to stop, you will be waking a tired child, they will be cranky - no fun.
     
    See more of my Travel Tip Tuesday posts

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Ethan is 5 months today

    I can’t believe that Ethan is already five months old. In some ways it seems like the time has gone by so fast and in other ways it feels like he has been with us forever.

    This past month has brought a bunch of changes for our little guy…

    He is rolling (still only tummy to back) like crazy….no tummy time in our house. As soon as I put him on his belly his rolls himself over. When he tries to roll back to tummy he gets almost all the way there, but can’t figure out what to do with his hands.

    He wants to move – even just on his back he pushes his feet against the ground enough that he can turn himself around. The other day I put him on the ground to play and walked into the kitchen…when I came back (about a minute later) he had turned himself around (was facing the opposite direction from the way I put him down).

    He “found his feet”. He had been playing with them for a while before this month, but is now able to intentionally grab them and play with them. Seriously it is one of his favorite things to do. He also recognizes the word feet – when we say “where’s your feet” he lifts them up and grabs on to them. As soon as he started trying to play with his feet, we would say “feet” when he was lifting them / kicking. He associated the movement of his feet with us saying the word. It is amazing what they can learn so young.

    He had food for the first time this month. So far he has had:

    Cereals
    Banana
    Apple
    Carrot
    Sweet Potato
    Green Beans
    Pears

    So far he has seemed to like everything (maybe not the green beans or cereal as much as the other things).

    For he most part he is getting homemade baby food, though he has had Trader Joe’s crushers (see my post) and has had green beans out of a jar (because for me I worry about the consistency of them when I cook them for him).

    He used the Jumperoo for the first time this month and loves it. He jumps around like crazy smiling and laughing the whole time.

    He went to the zoo for the first time (and the second) and had his first picnic. Oh and he went on his first Carousel ride (and his second).


    This is Ethan on day two - leaving the hospital






     
     
     
     
     
    and this is him now

    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    Our Visitor Today

    My husband went to take a shower this morning and guess who was in our bath tub...

    At first my husband thought it was one of Brady's toys from his bath last night, until it started moving. 

    He brought me in and I freaked out...I hate spiders.  I swear I felt like something was crawling on my for hours afterwards.

    He was able to get it and throw it out the window behind the bathtub.  I was freaking though.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Peanut Butter and Jelly art project

    Guess who is at it again....My husband was in our bedroom feeding Ethan and putting him down for a nap and Brady was in the other room having lunch.

    My husband comes out and Brady has peanut butter and jelly all over his naked stomach and back.  He took he shirt off because he spilled a little water on it...and then apparently thought that it would be fun to take the sandwich apart and run it all over himself...SERIOUSLY.  I don't know what I am going to do when Ethan is older and I have both of them coming up with these fun little games.

    What a good big brother

    Ethan went in the walker for the first time today...I know that doctor's don't recommend them - but we won't leave him unattended so I think it is ok - Brady got down on the ground and was trying to teach him how to play in it...

    Lizards like Iced Tea....

    My husband took the boys to the zoo yesterday and met up with one of Brady's friends from school (and his father and older brother).

    This is what happened when they were looking at the Lizards with an Iced Tea...of course the Lizard was behind the glass, though it is hard to tell from the pictures below.



    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Why I love it Wednesday - Trader Joe's Apple and Carrot Sauce

    This has been one of my top food purchases (for my four year old) over the past year. My mom bought them one day, knowing that Brady won't eat vegetables (see how to get a stubborn 4 year old to eat his veggies)and hoping to be able to trick him. Well, it worked - he inhaled the "applesauce" in seconds...seriously, I think he devoured the thing in less than a minute. Guess what...My son got a vegetable into his diet, and we have been buying them ever since.

    How did he not notice that his applesauce was orange? They come in these great Crusher contains (I can't really explain it but take a look at the pictures of Ethan eating them below).
















    It hides everything nicely inside and your child will never have to know that they are eating carrot's in their applesauce. Though, eventually they will catch on since the package has apples and carrots on it, but by that time they will like them so much that they won't care that they have given in and eaten a vegetable.

    At first I was worried that there would be a lot of added sugar, but after reading the label I was happy and a little surprised to find out that it is apple, carrot and pumpkin purees.  So now not only does my guy eat carrots but he eats pumpkin too (I think pumpkin has a lot of protien in it....or that was just what I told myself when I was pregnant and craving pumpkin pie).

    The newest reason that I love it...the baby can eat them too.  They are so convienent to throw in a diaper bag or a cooler when you are on the go - and they are not messey so it is a perfect snack for the four year old when we are in the car.

    I love, love, love Trader Joe's crushers and highly recommend that you try them out with your little ones (especially if they aren't veggie lovers).

    Now here is a picture of Ethan having his first crushers experience (oh and you can see a tooth in that picture too):



    What I would never buy at the dollar store -

    I happened to be wondering around our dollar store yesterday (kids were at home with my husband) and I noticed a couple of items that I definately would not trust from a dollar store (also see my Why I love the dollar store post).

    I saw swimming / floatation devices for the pool. I just would not feel right about putting my child's safety in the *hands* of a $1 flotation device (even if I am right there with him). It would just make me to nervous.

    On a completely different topic, they also sell pregnancy tests. That is one thing that is a little too important (in my opinion) to leave to a $1.00 product. That is not to say they don't work (they probably do) but for me even if it said no I wouldn't believe it anyway and would go out and buy a more expensive - drugstore one...so in reality I would just be spending an extra dollar if I bought it at the dollar store.

    I don't know why I felt the need to post this....just popped into my head

    So what things have you seen at the dollar store (or another discount store) that you wouldn't feel comfortable buying there?

    Wordless Wednesday: Play Dough


    See more Wordless Wednesday Posts

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Travel Tip Tuesday: Traveling with babies (and little ones)

    We took Ethan away for the first time at 6 weeks old and honestly I think the baby was easier than the 4 year old.

    What do you really need to pack for a baby this young, they can't play with anything, they aren't mobile...you need a ton of diapers, wipes, clothes and formula (and if you are nursing that's one less thing right there), that's about it. You probably want to bring a stroller depending on where you are going - I don't know about you but mine is always in the car anyway. The pack and play is up to you - most hotels have cribs, but I usually bring my pack and play. The baby will be packed for in at least half the time of anyone else in the family.

    The best advice I can give you is to make a list for each member of the family a week in advance, keep the list accessible and mark it off once things are packed. You will know you brought everything and if you think of additional items throughout the week, just add them to your list. While I was still on Maternity leave my husband and I took the boys to The Great Escape Lodge and indoor water park near Lake George, NY. We went the first week of January and since it was just after the holidays and the kids were back to school we spent about 1/3 of the price per night that we saw during the summer and the added bonus is that neither the hotel or the water park were crowded.

    How did we know that we would all enjoy it or that it wouldn't be too much with the baby? We didn't, but we planned three nights thinking that even if it wasn't great and we were bored with the water park we could handle three nights...and we actually added a fourth night while we were there. We made sure to bring plenty of things to do in the room in case the water park got to be too much (honestly we didn't really take any of it out of the bag). We spent no less than 6 hours a day at the water park each day, we did craft projects in the afternoons and had story time with the Looney toons characters each night. Absolutely perfect place for a four year old.

    So what did we do with the baby? My husband and I took turns taking Brady to the water park while the other one spent some quality time with Ethan. Being at home with the two of them really meant we didn't have quality time with either of them, but this vacation allowed Brady to have mommy and/or daddy to himself and also gave us some much needed bonding time with Ethan.

    The worst part for me - having to put on a bathing suit 6 weeks after having a 9 pound 4 1/2 oz baby.

    The whole thing went so smoothly that mommy even got to go to the Spa for a massage one morning.

    We have always traveled with Brady too, at 4 years old he has been to PA multiple times, New York, Boston and Rhode Island multiple times and has been to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland and Florida (Disney).  See my other Travel Tip Tuesday posts for how we save money on these trips. 

    As long as you do a little planning and research in advance you can really enjoy vacationing with your little ones.
    Here is a picture from Ethan's first vacation (6 weeks old).  This is both boys at bed time story time at the Great Escape Lodge.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Why I love the dollar store -

    There are a few different dollar stores around, but Dollar Tree is my favorite. This is the one where everything really is only $1.00.

    My favorite things to buy there:

    - Baby spoons (12 for $1)

    - Frozen food (the selection always changes, but I usually check it out)

    - Duncan Hines - snack size mixes (cookies, cupcakes, brownies). I can never seem to find them in the regular grocery store and they are perfect for when you have a little bit of a sweet tooth but I don't want to make the full size box for just me, my husband and Brady .

    - I will buy paper towel there

    - Sometimes I will get cleaner (depending on what they have that week)

    - Baby wash

    - Picture Frames

    - Candles

    and then whatever else I think is a good deal while I am wandering around the store. Oh and they are perfect for birthday party goodie bags.

    Weekend Wrap-up:

    I love when I find FREE things to do with the family on the weekend. This weekend there was a free family event a couple of towns away. My husband actually read about it in the newspaper, so I can't really take credit though.
    There was a childrens event (completly free) a couple of towns away. A bunch of the local pre-schools, daycares, the town library along with local birthday party / indoor play places and even dentists offices attended the event and all set up different areas for the children to play and do activities.

    They did things like:
    make you own playdough
    make trail mix
    fishing for temporary tatoo's
    shaving cream in a ziploc bag with food coloring
    sand table
    snakes to touch
    touch a truck

    The different groups also gave away coloring pages and various other items.  They also had Dora and Clifford there. Having said that, they were about the scariest looking characters that I have ever seen - not the best costumes in the world

    Obviously, these types of events are few and far between, but keep your eyes open.
     
    See other Family Fun tips for enjoying you weekends with your family.
     

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    The Jumperoo is in motion

    We brought out the Jumperoo today.  This was one of Brady's favorite things when he was Ethan's age. 

    Ethan loved it, within seconds he figured it out and was jumping up and down like crazy.  I think this is going to one of his new favorite play items.















    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    The four year old is at it again

    I went into Brady's room and the curtain from the window next to his bed was down....so I ask him why?

    His answer - I was swinging and it fell

    Next question - why were you swinging on your curtain?

    His answer - I wanted to get from my bed to my table....

    I just told him not to do it again because he could get hurt and gave up.  I knew I wasn't getting anywhere with that conversation - he had already rationalized it in his four year old brain.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Ultimate Blog Party

    Hi to all of the Ultimate Blog Party hoppers.

    I am a VERY new blogger - I have only been blogging for a couple of weeks. I am a 30 year old mom of two wonderful boys. Brady is 4 (he will be 5 in May) and Ethan is 4 months old. They are both amazing little guys.
















    I hope you all enjoy my site and please feel free to provide some feedback on my site as I am still getting the hang of this blogging thing.

    For motr information on Ultimate Blog party see http://www.5minutesformom.com/.

    UBP After-Party!

    I just saw that 5 Minutes for Mom is doing an after-party to the UBP.  I had so much fun participating in UBP that I have to be a part of the After Party too.

    Showcase your favorite 3 sites (or more) that you found during the blog party.

    First, I would like to thank everyone who stopped by my site and visited my party post.  As a new blogger this was a great way for me to *meet* some wonderful bloggers.

    So here are some of my favorite blogs that I found during UBP.  I love them all for the topics and writing.

    Big Smiles for Mama

    imalazymom

    pajamamamablog

    moonnback

    Enjoy the after-party everyone

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Nothing like waiting until the last minute

    Yes - the accountant waited until about 11pm on Tax Day to file....but it's done and we are getting a return.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Travel Tip Tuesday - Travel during the "off-season".

    We love to travel with our two little guys (and I say two because Ethan has already been on his first vacation - at 6 weeks old). The problem is that because we like to travel we have to find ways to do it on a budget allowing us to take additional trips throughout the year.

    Traveling in the off-season can be an easy way to cut vacation costs. In most cases you will find that hotels are much cheaper and at times local attractions are too. Unfortunately this is a tip that becomes more difficult to follow as your children get older and get into school and other activities but you will see that I do have some "off-season" tips for parents of older children too.

    If you children are still young and you are not forced into traveling with every other family in the US during school breaks, avoid vacationing during those weeks at all cost. Not only will the hotels be packed and VERY expensive, but you will find that the local attractions will all be packed as well. If you can avoid these times you will find that you can get deep discounts on hotel rooms and will have more fun at less crowded attractions. For example, we went to the Great Escape Lodge (keep your eyes open for more on this hotel and our vacation there), near Lake George NY the first week of January this year. We paid just over $100 per night, including the indoor waterpark. We had looked at that resort last summer and would have paid about $300 a night, I have a co-work who went between Christmas and New Year's (the week before we went) and spent over $400 a night. Why did we get such a good deal? This is a vacation geared toward children and they were all just going back to school after the holiday.

    Take advantage of the time before you children go to school and travel as much as possible during these times you will find great deals and less crowds.

    Now, if you have older children you can try plan trips to places that are traditionally "cold weather" vacations during your children's summer break. Or during their spring vacation go to a place that would typically be viewed as a summer destination (Newport, Rhode Island or Cape Cod for example). We have traveled to both places during April or early May and find great deals. We get hotels for nothing and if you can wait until the last minute to plan it, you can also make your decision based on expected weather. You won't be able to go to all the fun little shops - but face it your children don't want to do that anyway. Another good option for "off season" travel is Burlington, VT (a ski destination) during the summer. Most people with think of this destination for a winter vacation, but some research will tell you that there are plenty of things to do with the family in the summer as well.

    A little planning for your vacation will save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.

    I should be sleeping...

    Both kids have been asleep since around 8pm...(yes, the baby too) and if I was smart I would have gone to bed early, but instead (at 12 am) I am up blog hopping.  I am loving the Ultimate Blog Party and viewing all of the great blogs out there.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Ethan's Weekend Milestones -


    Ethan slept from 9pm - 6am (and would have probably slept longer but we had to get him up because we all needed to be out of the house first thing this morning). This is the first night that he didn't get up at 11pm for a bottle. We only have one night under our belts - but I am hoping that he keeps this up - mommy needs some sleep.  He was in bed at 8 tonight so we will see what happens. Unfortunately that is his "fussy" time so it is hard to anticipate how it will go, but tonight went well.

    He held his own bottle. Only for a minute or two, but he has been trying for a while so it was nice to see him be able to do it. 
     
    Not a wonderful picture...but you get the point.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Oh, and he was finally able to grab and hold onto his feet.  He has been *playing* with them for a while but wasn't able to grab onto them.  He has got the hang of it now....
     
     
    This isn't really the best representation of his new skill - he wasn't cooperating with my picture taking.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    ....and of course, he went to the zoo for this first time and had his first picnic.  While we were there he also went on his first merry-go-round ride - and wore sunglasses for the first time.
     
     

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Ethan's first picnic...and first visit to the zoo

    It was so warm out today and we had a family pack of tickets to our local zoo, so we decided to pack a picnic lunch and head out there.

    Ethan did really well.  He really seemed to like looking around at everything.


    The we had a picnic.  We brought sandwiches and snacks and found a grassy area to lay a blanket down and enjoyed our lunch in the nice warm sun.  Ethan had a bottle while we were eating.






















    The boys right before we left the zoo.


















    Brady was exhausted by the time we got home

    I wasn't blogging on St. Patricks day...

    ....but I have to post some of my favorite parade pictures.

    Ethan's first parade







































    Brady doesn't love parades - but I got him to pretend he was having fun.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Family Fun on a budget: Minor League Baseball



    This will likely end up being a series of relatively cheap, fun, family things that we choose to do on our weekends. We are always on the go with our boys and have come across some great money saving tips.

    Spring is here and I don't know about you, but I hate being stuck in the house on a warm weekend day. I also hate spending hundreds of dollars in one day to go to and amusement park / waterpark just because we have nothing better to do and want to get out of the house. One of my favorite suggestions is going to a minor league baseball game. They are very good games and cheap.

    We have been taking Brady to minor league baseball games since he was two. When Brady was two my husbands family ended up buying a bunch of tickets to a local minor league game and asked us if we wanted to go - we were worried, concerned he would be bored. The tickets were so cheap that we figured we would try it out - what was the worst that would happen? We would have to leave early....He did amazing and stayed for the whole game and for the fireworks after the game.

    We quickly realized that these games are so geared towards little children. The mascots of various local teams are all around the stadium, they do various on-field contests for the children (at two he was obviously to young - but not anymore), they throw shirts (and balls, toys, etc...) into the stands and they have a children's area set up with a bounce house and jungle jim for when the little ones need a break from the game. It is perfect for your young children. Our stadium also has a picnic area - so you could bring some lunch and snacks for before the game and not have the added cost of stadium food.

    Our team has a kids club that you can sign your child up for and they will get free tickets to various games throughout the season. We rarely pay for him to go to a game and for one game last season the child was free and could bring an adult for free so the three of us went for the price of one.

    I highly recommend this when you are looking for a fun family day out of the house

    This is Brady at his first baseball game

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Thoughts from the train....

    I work full-time and commute about and hour each way. The train is my "me time".

    Here are some random thoughts that I jotted down this morning:

    - I miss my boys, the hardest thing I have to do each day is leave them to go to work

    - Ethan is getting so big and changing so much, I can't believe that he is 4 1/2 months already

    - I am so proud of how wonderful my husband is doing as a stay at home dad right now - he is amazing with the boys

    - I can't believe I over slept this morning

    - I need to get more sleep

    - I can't believe I still made my train after sleeping so late

    - Why am I still drinking this coffee when it is burning my mouth??? I need caffeine

    - I hope I can take advantage of half day Friday's today so that I can get home to my boys and begin my weekend

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    My husbands purchase of the day

    ....A Mister Coffee food dehydrator - he bought it four $4 at goodwill.  We currently have pineapple, apples and strawberry dehydrating.  Yummy, healthy snacks for tomorrow.

    How to get a stubborn four year old to eat his veggies

    Since day one my son has refused vegetables. Even before he was old enough to realize that kids try to avoid wanting them. As a baby he would gag / get sick from green beans and once he was old enough to eat the toddler meals (the ones that has pieces of meat and vegetables) he would pull peas and carrots out of his mouth. I am lucky that he likes fruit or we would have some real problems.

    We have been putting vegetable on his plate since he began eating table food and have prepared it in just about every manner you can think of. He continues to refuse to eat them. If we tell him to eat his food or go to bed...he will choose bed every time. So here are some of the ways that I get vegetables into his diet:

    1.) Apple and Eve Fruitables Juice boxes: They are a mix of fruit and veggie juice (with 1 serving of vegetable per box). Since the juice is in the box he doesn't notice the color as he does with V-8 splash and other similar products so it is easy to get him to drink them. I normally let him have a juice box with snack, so I figure lets by a juice box with the added benefit of vegetables.

    2.) Soup: My son loves soup and though he refuses to eat carrots or celery in any other form...he will eat them in soup. He refused the soup to begin with too, but we started with just broth and then added the vegetables. He ate one by mistake and realized he liked them. He tells us that he "only likes soup carrots" He still won't eat carrots or celery other than in soup, but he knows that he is eating them and knows that he likes the taste so in my opinion, it is a good start.

    3.) Trader Joes Applesauce and carrot crushers: As far as I can tell, they are the only ones who make them (Babies R Us has a similarly package fruit and veggie mix that they market as baby food) and I think it is a genius idea...I wish they would make other flavors. They are fun because the come in the squeeze pouch, again your child can't see the color because it is masked by the container and it has the familiar flavor of applesauce combined with it so your child will enjoy it. My son tried them at my mom's house for the first time and inhaled it - she was shocked. So now Trader Joes is one our grocery store stops. I haven't tried it yet, but my next step is to make an applesauce at home and add pureed vegetables and see how that goes over. If that works I will gradually increase the volume of vegetable to apples until he is eating mostly veggies, plus it will let me regulate the level of sugar.

    4.) Parent's Choice baby food: Similar to the product above (though a little more liquidy) we actually by him baby food. The cup they come in actually looks like an applesauce snack cup too. I like this one because they have a few options; apples with carrots, apples with sweet potato, and pears with squash. This may be controversial in some ways, as I am feeding my four year old baby food. In my opinion if it gets vegetables into his diet I am happy with at. In addition, this option is probably better for him than the option above (designed for pre-schoolers) since in this option it is just apples, vegetable and water. There is nothing added to is as there is in the Trader Joes option (still good for your child, don't get me wrong). I also like the fact that he knows he is eating the veggies. As noted above I am going to begin to make my own fruit sauces with veggies in the next couple of weeks - I may do it this weekend.

    5.) Veggie corn dogs: For some strange reason my son likes them and they are much better for him than the regular ones. We bought them for the first time a couple of months ago, completely expecting that he would eat one bite of one corn dog and that would be it. My husband and I were shocked when we saw him eat bite after bite and inhale the whole thing in minutes. We will be trying Veggie hot dogs, veggie sausage and other products in the future.

    6.) Hiding veggie purees in common meals / snacks: The book written by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry's wife) - you can find out more about the book on it's website (http://www.deceptivelydelicious.com/site/) but there are basically a bunch of recipes that use vegetable puree's to hide veggies in your children's meals (from mac and cheese with squash puree incorporated to a brownie recipe with spinach puree in it). Don't get me wrong, I am sure that at least some of the recipes will not pass with my little guy - but as I said, I am willing to try anything. I just got this book so I haven't tried anything yet, but we will be trying some of these items soon. In addition to this book there are plenty of websites out there that have recipes for hiding vegetables in your children's food.

    To be perfectly honest I wish that my son would just eat his vegetables and that I didn't have to go through all of this just to get a couple of serving of vegetable into his diet. I have come to the realization that this isn't going to happen so I look for any opportunity I can find to sneak a vegetable into his diet...and for us, it is working.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Come read my blog - Feedback Needed

    I am new to blogging and would like you to come take a look and let me know what you like / don't like and what you would change.
    I would appreciate any feedback that you would like to give.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday - A few mintes early

    Travel Tip Tuesday: Roomsaver is my money saver

    It is getting to be vacation planning time, for some of you who are more organized than myself you may have already made plans for your summer travel, but in our house we just started discussing it last week.

    This is one of my favorite vacation planning resources.

    What is one of the biggest expenses when you travel? Your hotel room.

    I suggest checking out Roomsaver to get the most bang for your buck. They have a pamphlet that you can pick up in the front of almost any hotel or even some restaurants, but for me it is most convenient to use the website (Roomsaver.com). I find that I have the best luck when I am planning last minute weekend getaways, though I have used it for "planned" vacations too.

    The website is simple to use: From their homepage you select the state, then select the city and they will show you their current hotel discounts. It usually includes a picture of the hotel so that you can get an idea of what it looks like, for me I tend to check the hotel out on other travel sites and read reviews to ensure that they hotel meets the guidelines that I set for my family vacations. You can find discounts at most of the chain hotels, but we have found really nice places that weren't associated with the big chains as well.

    You can book the hotel right through their website, though for me I like to call the hotel directly. Either way, I have found (with the hotels that we have gone to) that they will give you the same deal. Just tell them that you are calling because you saw the price of $XX on roomsaver.com. For me I need to be able to talk to someone and ensure that the amenities that we want / need are all in working order, specifically making sure that the pool is open and that there is a crib available if we decided against bringing the pack and play.

    We have used the Roomsaver hotels multiple times and have had no problems. This past summer we stayed in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We stayed less than five miles away from Hershey Park, on a weekend during the summer and paid only $59 per night including breakfast. We also stayed right outside of Boston on a weekend for just over $60 per night. You can even find rooms as low as $40 per night in some popular destinations such as Orlando. [Having said that, I probably wouldn't take my family to the $40 per night hotel in Orlando. If I am going to Orlando, I am most likely going for Disney - stay at one of the All-Star resorts and get a package including tickets. You will get a good deal, you will be on Disney property, you can use their transportation and you won't need to rent a car or worry about parking]

    A word of caution - as I said, I have had no problems with the roomsaver hotels but I do my research first. Since I am traveling with my little guys, I need to make sure the quality of the hotel is up to my standards. If I could provide one word of caution it would be that if you see a $30 per night hotel in a big city or a popular travel destination be sure to check out the hotel prior to booking. It may be fine, but you want to enjoy your whole vacation, including the hotel you are staying in so my advice would be:

    1.) Read some reviews (make sure they say that it is clean, has good service and that they would return)

    2.) Make sure you know the check-in / check-out times and ensure they will work for you

    3.) Call the hotel to double check on amenities / services that are important to you and your family.

    Once you are comfortable with the hotel you have selected, book it and enjoy the fact that you have saved a significant amount on your hotel.

    No Gerber baby here: I am making Ethan's baby food

    Now you have to know what a big deal this is - I rarely cook. My husband does the cooking in our house so for me it is a big deal to say that I am making Ethan's baby food. Brady (the four year old) never had "real" food - he got the jar stuff from day one. Honestly, I never thought that I would make baby food - why make it when you can just pick it up at the store. Even a year ago (while I was already pregnant with Ethan) a friend started making baby food for her little guy and I thought she was crazy.

    So how did I go from that to being committed to making the baby food? I honestly don't know. Even when Ethan was born, I didn't plan to make his baby food. My husband and I have been talking about it in the last couple of months though, and both agreed that it was a better option (and maybe Ethan will end up with better eating habits than Brady). I think that giving Ethan "real" food may get him more acclimated to what "real" food tastes like and maybe he will have better eating habits than his brother - is that just wishful thinking? Maybe.

    So far he had only had cereal and mashed banana, so there has been no "making" involved, but he has done the banana's for a few days and is ready to move on. So, last night I made his first two batches of food (a batch of sweet potato and a batch of carrots). It is so easy - I don't why I didn't do it with Brady. Other than a nice hue of orange that seems to be stained into my hands, things went well. I just threw them in the steamer (one vegetable at a time, of course in case of allergies) waited about 20 minutes, pulled them out - the sweet potato went through the ricer and the carrots went into the food processor.
















    Honestly, it took no time at all. He will be on sweet potato for the next few days and we will probably freeze the carrots for later. So the decision has been made - Ethan will get home made baby food.

    My only concern with the home made baby food is what to do when we are out of the house. We are constantly on the go during the spring / summer and it is more convenient to just through a jar or two in the diaper bag. We will see what happens with this. He may be having home made food at home and store bought when we are out. I guess we will find out how committed I am soon.

    Oh, and at four months old...and after only having food for a couple of weeks - he feeds himself. Seriously, and my husband said that yesterday he was actually doing better feeding himself than when my husband tried to feed him. Ethan was grabbing at the spoon so my husband let him try...go it right into his mouth (he has had a lot of practice since he has been teething and biting on everything in site).

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Sugar Highs (and lows) and a Teething baby

    But still it was a wonderful weekend, but very busy. Saturday we did all the shopping, cleaning, coloring eggs and assembling Easter Baskets. Brady went with my husband uncle for the afternoon so that my husband and I could get some of this stuff done without a four year old tagging along. Ethan came, but at four months he is easy.

    Then onto Sunday.....Brady got a Treasure Map from the Easter Bunny telling him where all the eggs were and eventually leading to his Easter Basket. We added a couple of Eggs for Ethan and his basket to the map as well so that we wouldn't get any questions from Brady. So Brady ran around the house like a mad man finding his eggs and Ethan's eggs and eventually finding his basket (we used sand pails, instead of an actual basket - more practical in my opinion). Of course what is the first thing he does - begins chowing down on jelly beans...yes at about 8am. I told him he had to have "real food" so, we had some breakfast and then headed to my husbands Aunt's house. Her youngest son is 7 months younger than Brady so they were able to play outside for a bit, give each other another Easter Basket and then we had to be on our way.










    Next we headed to my Grandparents for the Easter Egg Hunt that they do for the little ones in the family (my youngest cousin is only 9 months older than Brady)...so the two of them and an eight year old and nine year old cousin all ran around the yard in search of eggs. Brady collected the most eggs - he was so excited...and the kids made sure that Ethan got an egg (and the prize for collecting the least amount of eggs).




















    The picture above is me, my sister, Ethan and Brady with some of my cousins.

    We spent a little bit of time there, the headed home to finish cooking dinner.  My husband put the whole meal together - so all I had to do was some last minute picking up around the house. My husband's grandparents and uncle came by to drop off baskets for the kids, when they left his mom and my grandfather showed up for dinner. We had tons of food - my husband can't cook without making enough for an Army. After dinner my parents came by, along with my sister and her husband and the set up another "Treasure Hunt" in the back yard. So Brady did Egg hunt number 3 for the day - leading him to his basket (and Ethan's) hidden under his slide. They stayed for a bit and then as they were leaving my husbands father stopped by...he left right before 8pm.















    Even with all the candy and garbage food that he ate all day we made it through the day with no melt-downs from the four year old....YAY. We had other issues once bedtime came around...but that's another story.

    I unfortunately can't say the same for the baby, but he was ok. He just did not want to let himself sleep with all the activity going on around him...plus add the teething to the mix and he hasn't been the happiest baby lately anyway. Though he was kind of fussy at various points throughout the day, he only had one complete melt-down, crying uncontrollably - but we were at home so I brought him into my bedroom and let him eat in silence and he seemed better.

    By 8pm, everyone had left and we were able to relax...after picking up the house a little, calming and overtired teething baby and attempting to keep and overtired, too much candy eating four year old in bed.


    Terrible 4's

    I could never understand what people were talking about when they said terrible 2's - Brady was amazing at 2, we never really had any problems - no temper tantrums, no bad behavior. Two was great. Fast forward to his 4th birthday (and I swear it started the day he turned 4) he now thinks he runs the place...and he had the attitude of a 13 year old girl. Even though he is punished for his behavior, he still seems to think he can do what he wants, when he wants.

    So last night, we were having trouble getting him to go to sleep. I knew that he had a long day and too much candy - I fully expected some bedtime issues as a result of the overtiredness. He got up a couple times, and the last time that he got up he woke up the baby who was sleeping in the swing in the living room (he also had a long day - barley slept, so when he fell sleep there I figured I would just leave him until his bedtime feeding), I honestly wasn't paying too much attention to Brady, because I was now tending to the baby, but I told him to go back to bed and not to get up again. He did.

    Later my husband goes in to turn off his night light before we went to bed and what does he see? The toys from his Eater Basket on the bed. He continues to look and finds the basket and candy wrappers....Brady had taken his basket into his room and ate a bunch of the candy while we thought he was sleeping. I couldn't believe it. When he woke up this morning he quickly realized that all of the candy (that he didn't eat) was put away and he would not be having any for a long time.

    Our biggest problem is that he doesn't really care when we punish him (if we take a toy away he has said "what, you think I don't have any other toys")? This boy is trouble. I know that it is just him seeing what he can get away with and I know that I just need to make sure that he isn't getting away with this behavior and I am sure eventually he will realize the boundaries and will hopefully stop trying to cross them.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    The Easter Bunny has arrived....

    I have been on the go all day, multiple stores (grocery shopping, Easter shopping), cleaning the house and preparing for tomorrow.  We even put Ethan's bunny slippers on for our outings.
















    We colored our eggs this evening....well actually we decorated more than colored.  Brady (our four year old) had a great time. 


    The Easter baskets are done (one for Brady, one for Ethan and one for my husbands little cousin)....















    Now we just need to hide the eggs and then it is to bed for me....We have a busy - and exciting day ahead of us.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    First Foods


    Ethan tried his first food last weekend, like most other babies it was rice cereal. He has been doing really well (the doctor was right - he was ready) eating about 5 or 6 spoonfuls, sometimes more, twice a day. Last night we decided to try something new (the doctor said as long as he goes a couple of day on each food without a reaction we should be fine to move on), but I hadn't purchased any baby food yet so I pulled out a banana and mashed it up...I added a little formula to thin it out because between formula and rice cereal he hasn't had anything near as thick as a banana - he gobbled it up. I finally stopped him and fed the bottle because I was worried about giving him too much the first time having a new / thicker food.

    The mashed banana got me thinking - is it really that difficult to just make baby food? Why did I decide to feed Brady pre-made (Gerber) baby food? Is the pre-made baby food the reason that Brady won't eat a vegetable to this day (or is it just that he is four)? If I made Ethan's baby food would he be more used to *normal* flavors and be more willing to try new things?

    I am sure that I can't blame Brady's bad food habits on the fact that I didn't make his baby food, but I do wonder if it could have something (even if it is just a small bit) to do with it? Would his eating habits be different if I made his baby food?

    So, I think I have decided that Ethan will get homemade baby food. I haven't had much time to read up on it - since I came to this realization last night, but I did read a little on the train to work and it seems like it will be manageable - especially since you can make larger batches and freeze them too.

    My only concern is with the fact that we are out of the house a lot, especially on the weekends. I worry that I will miss the convenience of throwing a few jars of baby food in the diaper bag. I guess I will just need to figure out how to package the homemade food so that it is "grab and go".

    I am sure when Ethan is four he will still have foods that he doesn't like / want....and I am sure it will be veggies, like his brother, but at least I will be able to say I tried made every attempt to get him to eat "real food"
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