January 28, 2014

things we couldn't live without: 6-9 months

I love doing these posts because I've heard from readers that they have really enjoyed using them as gift guides or as suggestions for their own registries. I'm also sure that I'll appreciate them in a few years when we decide to have another baby and I've forgotten all of the things that we enjoyed using with Alden :)

1. Munchkin spoons: We had two packages of these and I was positive that we'd never need to open the second one. Well, I was wrong. Alden goes through so many spoons per day (multiple meals, dropping them on the floor, etc.) that we almost always have some in the sink, some in the dishwasher and some in the drawer. They're shaped well for a baby to hold and the bowl is a perfect size for his mouth.

2. Pack n Play: We have one similar to this and we use it every day. It stays set up in the area between our living room and kitchen and Alden hangs out in it in the morning while Nick gets his lunch packed, makes breakfast, coffee, etc. and I'm getting ready in the back. Alden is so mobile now that it would take us 3 hours to get ready if we let him roam around while we both were trying to get things done because we'd have to stop every 5 seconds to take something inedible out of his mouth, prevent him from falling and cracking his head open, or steal him away from the dog's water bowl :)

3. Britax convertible car seat: We have this one and it changed Alden's life. In his old carseat he would whine and cry almost every time we put him in the car. As soon as we strapped in this puppy, happy baby travels began! It seems SO much more comfortable than his old seat, with lots more padding and cushions, and he can sit up a lot more so he can actually see a little of what's going on. It's definitely pricey but we feel that the brand reputation, safety, and comfort are worth it. Plus, it has a higher weight and height limit so it will grow with Alden for a decent amount of time (even though we switched to the Britax seat around 5 1/2 months, he was already only an inch away from being too tall for the infant seat anyway).

4. Obnoxious, plastic toys that make noise: Mainly, I'm talking about our activity table. We have this one and even though we've had it for months, Alden still plays with it every day. Ours has balls that you can roll down a little ramp into a hole that makes noise and funnels the balls back down the legs. Alden quickly figured out that he could put anything small into the middle of the table and get the same noises, so now we find an impressive array of little surprises jammed into the table :) Even so, he still interacts with the buttons and activities and it's been fun to watch how his play has changed as he's gotten older.

5. U Konserve stainless containers: We actually have a few different products from U Konserve but these are the first containers we bought. Once Alden started eating a decent amount of solid food at lunch time, we knew we needed to get him some reusable lunch containers. We love them so much! They get washed all the time and are still holding up really well. The lids are a great quality and we use them every day. I even went back and ordered one of their lunch kits for myself and really enjoy it.

6. Sophie: I know that we have Sophie on our must-have list from 3-6 months but she's so important, we had to put her on the list again. We keep Sophie in the diaper bag so that she goes everywhere with us. She's an important gal :)

7. Balls: We have various balls in Alden's toy basket...a little soccer ball, a few smaller soft ones, his O Ball (on our 3-6 month list, here) and a set made by B. toys that seem to be a big hit and that will grow with him for a while. In short, balls are good developmental toys that can be played with in lots of different ways over many phases of a baby's toddlerhood. Get some fun ones :)

8. Stacking cups: We love this set of stacking cups that were gifted to us by Grandma and FarFar Wiese. Alden plays with them in the bath, on the floor, and we've taken them with us when we travel too. Mostly, he enjoys knocking them down after we've stacked them up but as he gets older he'll be able to stack them himself. This is one of the toys that he keeps going back to so I think we'll be having fun with them for a while!

9. Bathtub Safety Mat: Once Alden started sitting up, we transitioned him out of his baby tub and into the "big boy" tub. It was easier for us because he could sit all the way up and he enjoyed it more since he wasn't being made to lay back the whole time. We absolutely couldn't live without this bath mat. We opted for this one because it covers almost the whole bathtub, wasn't plastered with obnoxious colors or characters (this bathroom is a guest bath as well and we don't want it looking like a playground), and it was way less expensive than many of the smaller, made-for-kids options. We've been using it for months and we still love it. Cleans easily and rolls up nice and tight for traveling.

10. Llama Llama Nighty Night: Alden still doesn't sit still for a whole book most of the time but this one seems to be grabbing his attention more and more. It was gifted to us by my cousin Melissa and I'm so glad she introduced us to the Llama Llama world :) It's a short little book and it's perfect to help reinforce a bedtime routine.

11. Playtex Lil' Grippers Straw Cup: After trying a few different sippy cups, we decided to go with a straw and Alden took to it like a fish to water. We use these every day for mealtimes and for water in between meals. He takes them to school every day and there's always one in the diaper bag, too. They're a good size so we're not having to refill them every hour but still light and small enough for him to pick up on his own. I love that they're guaranteed leak-proof and that the straw can be clicked away when he's playing in the floor or outside.

12. Stacking rings: We have these by Melissa & Doug (one of our favorite wooden toy makers). *I've got to say- Melissa & Doug's website is a hot mess. Great for browsing but trying to find something specific takes years of your life...proceed with caution* These stacking rings were one of the first toys we had for our little man, gifted to us by Mimi and PopPop Palmer in the early baby days (maybe even before Alden was born). They have retained their precious toy shelf position and are still pulled down and played with often.

much love, L&N

January 27, 2014

Mama Moments: Vol 2

Oh, kiddo, how did I get so lucky to be your Mama? Here are some things that have stopped me still the past few months and made me think, "oh wow, this Mama thing is great". I love you so very much.

-the sitting spin you do on the wood floors- it's so funny to watch you spin yourself around and around! 
-your thinking face. you pay so much attention to the world and I love watching you learn new things
-the way you stop crawling just long enough to look back and laugh when we "chase" you
-seeing that you understand what we're saying and knowing that you're just a few months away from telling us all sorts of stories in return 
-the way you give hugs.you give great hugs!
-the kisses you give Daddy and I in the morning when we're cuddling in the big bed. and how you, without us asking, go back and forth between us giving as many kisses as we can stand :)
-the giggle you have when you ask Maverick for kisses and he won't stop licking you
-feeling like there's no where I would rather be when I'm hanging out with my boys
-hearing you use your first word (dog!) and seeing your face light up as you learn more 
-the way you hold my hand while you nurse to sleep at night and curl the other one up around my shirt
-the way you peek around things when you really want to see what's going on. you get a serious look on your face and you lean as far as you can around whatever's in your way :)
-when you dance
-the giggle I hear when you're playing with my jacket while we grocery shop
-the "uh-oh" game
-how fascinated you are with the outside world. Your Daddy abad I can't wait for Spring so we can have all sorts of fun in the backyard :)

and so much more.

I love you, my sweet boy.


January 23, 2014

New Year's teacher gifts

Just a quick post to share the little treats I made for Alden's teachers at school a few weeks ago.

Since we send New Year's cards instead of Christmas cards, I thought it would be fun to give Alden's teachers a New Year's gift also. Everyone brings gifts around the Christmas holiday and this way, we get to extend the cheer a little longer :)

I found these cute little snowman boxes at Wal-Mart when we were visiting my parents and thought they would be perfect for the little treat I had in mind. I made chocolate crinkle cookies and put some cocoa mix in each box and attached a little note that said, "A little treat to warm up your New Year!" I liked that the boxes were festive but not obviously Christmas and since we've had such cold weather lately, a little warm treat is surely welcome. The chocolate crinkle cookies look a little like they've been dusted by snow so I think they fit the theme well :)

It's important to me to send a little something to show all of his teachers how much we appreciate their time and love. During the week, Alden spends more (awake) time at school than he does at home and knowing that his teachers care about him and are invested in his growth is invaluable. I'm sure growing up with a teacher Mom has a little something to do with it as well ;)

Does it make me a complete weirdo that I'm excited for the years to come when I can find new, cute ways to say thank you to the teachers in our lives? :)

much love, L&N

January 16, 2014

Cheers to 2014!

We send New Year's cards in our family so I thought I would share this year's design with y'all. We got them from tinyprints and ended up getting them at a really fantastic price, too! We've used tinyprints for other cards in the past and I love the quality of both the paper and the photos. I can always find tons of options that we love and if you sign up for their listserv you get coupon codes all throughout the year. We ended up scoring a $30 off any purchase code through their email list and it made these awesome cards super affordable (since we only order a few dozen).

Nick and I have really embraced the new year this go around (not that we haven't in the past) but we are making a concerted effort to really start out with a clean slate. We've concentrated on getting some much needed organization in place at home, have been clearing out lots of our excess belongings (which I tend to do anyway, but now it's husband-sanctioned :) ), and are trying hard to live a more intentional life. I am an especially focused "constant-improver"…so I have moved away from new year's resolutions as I've gotten older. Nick tells me that I'm always looking forward and never just enjoying the place I'm in, and he's partly right. I remember my parents saying when I was young, "Don't wish away your childhood," because it seemed I was always ready for the next thing. I worked hard after Alden was born to just relish the moment because I knew that in 10 years I would want to remember being present in those first new-mom months, not just waiting for the next phase to come.

So, in keeping with that idea, one of my goals for this year is to slow down a little. Remember that I'll get where I'm meant to go even if I don't get there at warp speed. Nick & I are both trying to remember to keep documenting our lives while maintaining a balance between enjoying the moments while still keeping track of memories. We're also really focusing on our finances this year. We're in a pretty good spot, in general, for people our age…we have owned our home for over 4 years, we both have relatively decent retirement accounts started (and growing), and we're both pretty smart money managers who like to keep our bills at a minimum. Buuuttt, years in grad school (for both of us) means years of majorly small incomes and, over time, we've felt our financial position slip a little. Our savings is much smaller than we'd like, the house needs some bigger projects completed, and we'd like to really lower our credit card debt. So for 2014, it is the year of saving our pennies so that we can set ourselves up for a much more stable and secure future. We have had lots of conversations about our long-term financial goals and have decided to go without some extras now in order to better set us up to accomplish the big things we envision (one day buying or building our dream home, having a great college account for Alden, traveling with our kids, living debt free, owning a business, etc.).

In smaller terms, instead of having 10 resolutions for the whole year, I've decided to have quarterly goals. I'm giving myself 3 things to focus on each quarter of the year and if I haven't accomplished them all when I get to the end of the quarter, I'll just give myself more time to focus on completing them. (Among my small goals: get more sleep, incorporate small bits of exercise when I can, and do more nightly tidying so I don't feel overwhelmed with cleaning on the weekends)

I love the idea behind resolutions because they inspire such hopeful re-evaluation of how we spend our time and money but, in practice, most of us forget about them by the time April rolls around and we then spend the month of December feeling like we didn't accomplish anything even though we most likely did (just maybe not on the resolutions that graced your planners pages in the early days of January). I'm hoping that my quarterly goal system will remind me to check in with myself often enough to keep me focused on the things I feel are important for me to work on right now without making me feel guilty if I don't accomplish every single thing.

No matter how you choose to celebrate and embrace the coming of a new year, cheers to enjoying the ride!

much love, L&N

January 15, 2014

salt dough ornaments

Okay everyone, we're going to take it back to Christmas again. I know, I know…it's January 15th. Christmas is over. But, I just couldn't resist sharing this simple (but adorable) little craft I made for our family.

I remember salt dough from when I was a kid and I'm sure my parents had a few examples of kid-crafted ornaments on their tree at some point. I definitely remember making some kind of cinnamon dough reindeer ornaments and stringing them on little red ribbons…ahhh Christmas :) This craft tapped into all of the good kinds of holiday nostalgia and I'm thinking some kind of salt dough crafting will be a tradition in our house for years to come. If I had this much fun making them by myself this year I'm sure I'll be over the moon to make them with Alden's help :)

I used a very simple salt dough recipe: 2 C flour, 1/2 C salt, and about a C of water. Make sure to use regular table salt and not a larger grained salt like sea salt and remember that the exact amount of water will vary depending on the weather, temperature, etc.

After my dough was made I chilled it in the fridge for a few minutes so it would be a little easier to work with and then rolled it out on floured parchment paper to the thickness I wanted (ended up being about 1/4"). I searched the house for something round that was bigger than Alden's hand and ended up with the lid to one of Nick's coffee cans. I gently pressed the lid into the dough so that we would have guidelines of where to press Alden's hands. Next came the handprints. Not as easy as it looks, people ;) With a sweet, immobile newborn this part would have been easy peasy but with our 10-month old, interested-in-everything, want-to-do-it-myself little man, the handprints were a repeated exercise in both patience and speed :) All Alden wanted to do was squish the dough between his fingers so Nick & I ended up with a crazy system where he would hold Alden like a football, I would spread out his hand and press it into the dough while Nick held on to his other hand and helped give me some pressure for the imprint- and we would do this really fast, with countdowns and everything to help keep Alden occupied :) As funny as we must have looked, we got all 7 handprints done and there were only a few holes in the dough…

After the prints were made, into the oven they went! I simply cut the parchment paper around each ornament and slipped them onto the cookie sheet- this is why you want the parchment underneath them from the beginning. You can also choose to let them air dry but it takes days (at a minimum) for them to completely dry and I needed mine to be finished in less than 48 hours. I baked them in the oven for about 1-1 1/2 hours the first night (at 325 degrees) and put them on a drying rack. The next day they still seemed a little more moist than I wanted them to be so I stuck them back in the over for a few 30 minute stretches, checking them in between. 

*Note: you have to put the hole for the string in the dough BEFORE you bake it but I forgot until they had already been baking for about 15 minutes :/ Turns out, it was super easy to make the hole after the dough had dried out a little because it kept the dough from stretching too much and I was able to use a toothpick to make the hole the size I wanted without having to mess with gooey dough at the same time!

Once they were finally dry, I got to painting. I had originally planned to leave them white and just glitter the edges but they all had lines baked into them where the parchment paper had wrinkled and weren't all evenly colored (some areas of flour were lighter than others) so painting seemed like a better idea. We have a pretty modern aesthetic around here so I chose a pretty gray for the background, silver glitter for the edges and a classic red ribbon for the loop. I then took one of my very thin paint brushes and freehanded Alden's initials and the year on the inside of the handprint. (I originally wanted to paint his monogram on the back of the ornament but the not-so-flat surface put the kibosh on that idea pretty quickly…)

I tied them onto the front of our family's presents and loved seeing them get hung on everyone's trees, including ours. They're certainly not perfect but the glitter on the edges twinkled just right in the lights of the Christmas tree and I got all warm and fuzzy inside every time I glanced up and saw my little boy's sweet handprint :)

Can't wait for next year's salt dough craft!

much love, L&N

January 10, 2014

10 months!

our little man with some of his favorite things
Well, here we are at the 10 month update. I knew this first year would go quickly, but I never in a million years could have guessed just how quickly. I cannot believe that in a few weeks Alden will turn one! I say it every time I post a monthly update and I'll say it again, TIME FLIES!

Alden's 10th month was a busy one: he got another tooth, went to visit Mimi & PopPop in Alabama for Christmas, tried some yummy new foods (he's really into hummus and grapes at the moment), and got much more mobile on his feet. He still doesn't stand unassisted but we think he's close. He's very cautious and we think he's just scared to fall so he's taking his time figuring it out. I'm actually really ready for him to walk because, for now, he's in this weird stage where he wants to be standing all the time but he can't stand unless he's at furniture or with us (or more specifically, our legs). I think it's harder to do things around the house because he's always climbing up me and he is so focused on physical development right now, he doesn't sit and play the way he used to. It's okay though, it's just a phase and pretty soon he'll be so busy running around that we'll be begging him to come tug on our legs to be picked up :)

We got a little brave last month and decided to slowly reintroduce some dairy and see how he did. We have a sneaking suspicion that the main culprit may be soy for him since we have now seen him have a skin reaction to soybean oil (which is kind of weird...). We probably picked a bad week to start the reintroduction because he wasn't sleeping well and had been really fussy and "off" all week beforehand but...we saw some increase in allergy-like symptoms (gassiness, sleeping less, stomach symptoms, runny nose) in the couple of days after I had eaten some dairy so we're waiting another 2 weeks or so for the proteins to leave our systems and then trying again. We think that there may have been some other foods at work to give him the symptoms we were seeing so we're in sleuth mode at the moment trying to figure out what's going on. We're getting close to trying again and hopefully before his birthday we'll have a solid answer on whether he can tolerate dairy.

Alden is really vocalizing a lot now and has started to really try to communicate with us more. He still doesn't sign back to us (which isn't surprising since Nick & I are bad about signing all the time) but he definitely knows the sign and word for milk and he obviously understands SO much of what we're saying to him. It's incredible to watch his little brain learn how to communicate with us even before he's talking! If we ask him to hand us something or to come here, he pretty much always does what we're saying…unless of course he chooses to ignore us because he's having too much fun breaking the blinds or playing in the trash can ;) I read an article somewhere (I think it came to my inbox in a weekly newsletter and now I'm having trouble finding it…maybe this one? Same message anyway…) that mentioned that a baby's first word isn't necessarily a word the way we think of them. That it can be any sound that they consistently and repeatedly use to refer to something. If that's really the way to define a first word, then ladies and gentlemen, we have our first word! Nick & I are reluctant to say that Alden is actually a "talker" because we're just not sure that he's really there. But, we are definitely sure that he is communicating more and more with us by pointing and making sounds.

Our baby is certainly well on his way to toddlerhood!

The photos may be sparse for this month since I shared so many in our holiday recap post but here we go anyway :)

gotta get the last little bit :) 

playing under the table

Christmas open house at Lyndon House

playing in the art gallery

Superbaby plays without his feet on the ground :) 

his favorite thing: taking everything out of bags and boxes and spreading it out on the floor

soybean oil reaction :( 

Alden met Santa! 

Mama and Daddy let me play in the pot cabinet. It's my favorite place in the kitchen! 

quick selfie with Mama ;) 

playing with Daddy before bath time :) 

he loves to eat off of his plates now
checking out the new vacuum

The next update I post will probably go up after this little guy is already ONE! Can't wait for all the excitement ahead :) 

much love, L&N

January 6, 2014

2013 Holiday Recap

I spent the holiday season trying really hard to enjoy the moments and to soak up as much as I could without worrying about taking photos every second. It is easy for me to get caught up in the "I-must-document-everything" rush and I end up feeling like I wasn't actually there. Since this holiday season was the first one with our tiny man, I wanted to make sure I was creating some wonderful memories in my head, not just on the camera :) With that said, there's not a ton of photographic evidence of the fantastic holidays that we had in our house but, believe me, they were wonderful.

We alternate families for the holidays so this year we were with the Wieses for Thanksgiving and with the Palmers and Rowes for Christmas. Nick's parents came to Athens for Thanksgiving (like last year) and we had a great week! We did some shopping, a lot of cooking, went on a day trip to Helen, and had a little "Christmas in November".

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner while on a dairy/soy free diet wasn't as difficult as we had expected. We probably could have gone a little farther and tried some more intense dishes but after planning a huge meal, shopping for it, having your kitchen covered in pots and pans and chopped up food all day- some simple things sounded great :) We ended up with a dairy-free cornbread dressing (Nick's traditional recipe with dairy substitutes), roasted rosemary and thyme fingerling potatoes, dairy-free squash casserole (Wiese family recipe with coconut oil instead of butter), turkey (of course), green beans almandine, gravy, rolls, and dairy-free apple crumb pie for dessert. It was delicious!

the only evidence of our yummy meal :) 

There is a little town in Northeast Georgia called Helen whose downtown is like a little Bavaria. There are shops, restaurants and lots of little places to visit. Nick and I went in 2010 to celebrate his birthday but hadn't been back since then. Nick's mom has wanted to go for a couple of years now but last year when they were here for Christmas, I was very pregnant and didn't think a day full of walking sounded enjoyable :) So we finally made the trip this time and, even though it was raining all day and only got up to about 40 degrees, I'm so glad we went! We had a great time looking in all of the little shops, had a good lunch at a Bavarian pub, and found some treats to come home with.

cold & rainy won't keep us away :) 

 Since it was Alden's first Christmas, Grandma and Far Far Wiese asked if we could do Christmas with them while they were visiting so they could see Alden open his gifts. We took advantage of the opportunity to make the Friday after Thanksgiving our little "Christmas in November". We went and picked out a tree, got the lights on it, watched a Christmas movie and had a blast opening presents with Alden :)
picking out our Christmas tree!

opening his first present

let me at 'em! :)

per usual, he had more fun with the boxes than anything else...

helping us decorate the tree

I've never had Christmas decorations up so soon after Thanksgiving but I really liked it :) It was really fun to take the whole day after Thanksgiving (which is usually a lazy day anyway) and welcome the Christmas cheer into the house. Nick and I think our tree this year was our best yet. It has such a perfect shape and is just the right height for our house. We normally have a lot more ornaments on the tree but we opted for an unbreakable tree this year just in case Alden decided to pull decorations off and/or pull the tree over :) I actually ended up really loving the look of the tree- simple but still festive and pretty. I think it's my favorite tree so far.

Just a few short weeks later, we were ready to celebrate Christmas with the Palmers and Rowes in Alabama! We went to my parents house for the week and had a great time seeing family, cooking lots of yummy food, and hanging out with Alden.

My parents hosted a Christmas Eve brunch at their house on Tuesday and had Christmas dinner at their house on Wednesday after gifts. That kept us pretty busy in the kitchen but we still managed to find time to go out to eat a couple times, hang out with my grandparents at their house, and enjoy our time visiting with my brother, his girlfriend Sarah, and our extended family. Since this was the first Christmas in my parents new house and with Alden, we decided to start some new traditions as well :) Instead of waiting until Christmas morning to open all of our presents with our extended family, we did our immediate family Christmas at my parents house on Christmas Eve. It was so fun to open presents and talk and laugh with just the adults for a little while. My brother Austin, Nick, Sarah and I opened up a bottle of bubbly and everyone enjoyed watching each other open gifts and tell stories :)

Christmas morning, we all opened stockings and Alden got his Santa gifts and opened the rest of his wrapped presents. Then, we all got dressed and headed up to my grandparents house for gifts and breakfast with the extended family. It was a wonderful holiday!

not sure about this whole stocking thing

checking out his gifts from Santa 

"okay, Mama, this is pretty cool" :) 

my favorite series of photos...the opening of the play cell phone :)




"Oh, there you are. Wanna go get some pizza?" :)  

the whole family in our Christmas PJ's

Alden with Mimi and PopPop

Alden, Uncle Austin and his girlfriend Sarah

figured out how to tear into the presents quickly...

just so he could eat the paper :) 

my beautiful baby boy

Christmas at Nana and Papa's

in his Christmas best :)

this is why I have barely any photos of him...he insists on taking my phone and making a monster face every time I try :)

The whole Palmer clan (with a couple Wieses and a Wilt thrown in ;) 

I hope you all had as wonderful of a holiday as we did! I'll be back soon with more updates- Alden's 10 month post, our New Year goals, and some other little updates.

much love, L&N