Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Long Weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida

Claire has officially and successfully checked off her first flight. She was 12 weeks for hers and Benjamin was 6 weeks.
Benjamin also had a first. A first time sitting in his own seat. Logically, he only wanted out of it nonstop.

One of my children managed a peaceful flight both ways. And the other one... well there have been worse, but not by much. Turns out 25-month olds can still be annoying in their own seats. It didn't help that our flights were during his sleeping times for both leaving and returning.

But you know the Wilsons... nothing stops us from getting out of dodge to warmer temps and sunshine! The husband had a work conference and I usually tag along for this one as it is somewhat spouse/family-friendly. They have a suite setup just for wives to chit-chat, and even plan events for the wives to attend while the husbands are away listening to speakers and networking. I attended some of these events last year in Carslbad, but this time I had two kids with me and no grandparents to help. We managed to attend the first dinner reception with the kiddos, but the rest of the formal dinners had me flying solo.

We had some pretty great highlights of the trip and some not-so-great ones... let's start with the not-so-great:
  • Leaving our backpack with Elliot's work laptop (read: very important), iPad (loaded with all of Benjamin's flight entertainment I was banking on), all of our snacks, camera charger, and all of Benjamin's stickers/books/toys that I meticulously packed. It was recovered where we left it in the airport parking shuttle bus. Too bad we noticed just as we were putting our things on the TSA security belt (because we didn't have a laptop to take out). It was just too late. 
  • Leaving Benjamin's very favorite monkey Aden & Anais blanket & Claire's brand new bee Aden & Anais blanket along with my nursing cover and a bottle of breastmilk in the children's play area at Tampa Bay's airport. I've called twice and they have not been returned. Possibly discarded. And it feels sort of violating. I know they're just blankets, but my kiddos love them and they're worn in all the right places and theirs. Not to mention the monkey blanket was a gift for Andrew we received from good friends just before he was born. Bummed. 
  • This forgetting business frustrates me so much. I'm so organized and when I forget something, it takes awhile for me to get over it. I remember the moment I forgot the blankets because Benjamin was running over and attempting to pull the airport fire alarm and ugh. If we weren't busy chasing him in a fury, I would've checked. Also, it seems to be a trend with these business trips. I forgot the iPad in our hotel room in Carlsbad back in October. Thankfully, that was recovered and returned.
  • We hit up a farmer's market that had amazing potential, but both of the kids were at their melting points. It was past lunch, everyone was hungry, and it was Florida hot. I don't regret going, I just wish emotions weren't so... ugly.
Now for the great ones:
  • We stayed at the Renaissance Marriott Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg. It was phenomenal. It's a gorgeous hotel, but the room was the best part-- enormous and just perfect for what we need with two kids in tow. We ordered a rollaway for Benjamin and he slept great in it for two nights and one nap. The third night was in the crib (also ordered for calm-down time and used!) because he was being an escapee way too many times at like 11 p.m. He did fall out of the rollaway once, but it's only a foot drop compared to the large beds which are like 3 feet from the ground. We just lined the ground with pillows. And the rest of the naps were stroller naps on the go.
  • Claire slept in her carseat with the Ergo infant insert and her Halo Sleepsack Swaddle and slept through the night all three nights (for the first time!). I had to wake her after 10+ hours to feed her! Now she is back to waking. Wuh wuh. We put her in the bathroom as not to wake Benjamin and it worked.
  • Ordering room service with Benjamin. His first experience and I was not about to let the food go to waste. He's so picky, so I ordered what I hoped would be a hit: chocolate milk, french fries, mac'n cheese, pasta marinara with broccolini (which I ate... wasn't sure what he would choose of the two). I did ask him what he wanted for dinner and he told me "cake". While we did not order any, he had his fair share of treats on this trip, don't worry. As hoped, he loved room service. 
  • I spent our second day there with Darcey and her rainbow toddler, Layton. We went to Lowry Zoo and had a really nice time connecting. They're definitely a family I could see us being good friends with if we were more local. Margaritas, beach days... 
  • We visited the St. Petersburg Children's Museum and Benjamin loved it. No surprise there, of course.
  • Lots of sunshine, warm temperatures, beach and regular walks, poolside relaxation...
  • They had a red trolley (just like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood!) that made a stop in front of our hotel. For $.50, you could ride a few miles before it drops you back off at the hotel. Benjamin loves transportation vehicles. Especially buses/trolleys. We rode it to dinner one night, the farmer's market the next day, and on our last day, we rode it just because! The trolley driver was super nice and Benjamin was contained and happy. It was relaxing for me because he couldn't escape and Claire would sleep soundly.
trolley + hotel

hanging out poolside

zoo with friends

a couple rainbow 2-year old terrors doing their thing.

children's museum action-- rubber pellet sand! super cool and a blast to play in.

room service + sibling love

at the children's museum: news desk, fire truck, enormous tree house/slide, grocery store with registers!
Now we're back to Chicago where the high won't even break 40 degrees today and I'm staring at SNOW on my deck that fell yesterday. It's flurrying right now. Next year this same conference is being held in Napa Valley, CA. To say I am excited about that trip is a huge understatement. I'm hoping to get a few of my BLM friends on board for a little meetup and I'll definitely be dropping the kids with the grandparents to have some adult wine tasting fun.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gaw-bee Visit & Serious Deals

My mom was in town this past weekend and it was so nice. Those of you who have parents that live locally to spend time with the grandkids or just give you a break every now and then don't know how lucky you are! Or maybe you do.

Benjamin was beside himself with happiness that "Gaw-bee" was in town. I have no idea where he got that name, but he calls my mom that and my MIL "Gae-bee" (for Gramie I'm assuming). I have a trained ear to know the difference, but either way, he loves to "call call" them both and loves it when they are in town to love on him with 100% attention.

We took full advantage of the extra help and made our way to REI for their annual garage sale. I knew there was a very slim chance, but I was hoping to score a BOB Duallie Revolution jogger for a discount. That didn't happen. If we lived in Los Angeles, there would probably be a half dozen for the picking. Here, there was a single and that was even overpriced. I'm throwing down for one in the coming week. Let's just not discuss how many strollers I have owned. The Bumbleride Flite is about out the door via Craigslist, but yeah. I'm a stroller hoarder.

Since it was only 8:30 in the morning, we headed off to another sale. I was emailing back and forth last week with my friend Alli who is Crate.&.Barrel's biggest fan. I forwarded her this email that was blabbing about a warehouse sale and 75%+ off, etc. I feel like I get those emails from every company on a weekly basis and really thought nothing of this one. But apparently this one was different. We have an outlet store and distribution center here in the 'burbs and I almost never score anything of high value. Sure, a table runner and dishes here and there. But furniture? Nah. But when I told my friend about this sale, she said it was the real deal. Still, on Saturday I was not thinking we would bother. Until the REI sale was a bust and we decided to drive on over for the fun of it.

We got in line 5 minutes before the sale opened and there were a few hundred people in front of us. Once the doors opened, we entered the warehouse and saw tons of factory firsts, seconds, returns, and floor models in every furniture line they sell! People were throwing their hands up left and right and sold signs were being slapped onto couches worth thousands of dollars marked down to $500. We looked through and noted the gorgeous furniture. But really, we didn't need anything. I found a cute bowl and wineglass in their houseware department I wanted and got in line with my $5 bill. My husband and baby were off next door at Land.of.Nod Outlet store at this point. Just because it was fun, I asked the guy behind me what he bought. He told me he used to work there and this sale has never been done before and that he bought a King bed. He whipped out his phone and showed me a picture. I fell in love immediately. It's basically my dream bed. Reclaimed wood. Rustic. Cool shelving. The perfect mix of modern and contemporary. I asked if they had more and he told me they did. I paid for my kitchenware, ran over and found the bed. I called the husband who came running back and consulted the sales associate in the bedding area of the warehouse because the bed I chose wasn't tagged. I asked if it was sold and it wasn't. They tagged it as a complete bed and I threw my hand up to buy it. A $2,700 bed for $250. Sure, we did just complete our bedroom and buy a headboard and new nightstands, but this was a solid wood bed for cheaper than the price of wood itself!

At this point, the line to purchase was about 80 people deep. I fed Claire in the car while E waited in line and then headed across the street to Target to kill some time while E waited in line. He reserved a truck to transport the bed while waiting to pay and then we were off to get the truck. Just then, I received a call from the sales associate who tagged the bed and she told me the bed they sold me was incomplete. But, because they are awesome and I already paid for it, they will be honoring it as a complete bed and making it right. But that we didn't have to pick up that day (phew, you should've seen the line!). We headed back to Land.of.Nod Outlet and they were also having a bit of a sale. We scored a rug for Claire's room for $75. E loved it at first sight, but it took me awhile to love it. Now I really do and the quality cannot be beat.

We contemplated going back the next day for day #2 of the sale. Mostly because we live locally and my mom was in town still. We never get the opportunity to just shop without our toddler around! And, we were curious if there would be more stock put out. And of course we found about 10 things in our house we'd like to replace with better pieces of furniture for these ridiculously awesome prices.

So we went. We showed up earlier to get in line this time and were behind about 30 other people. Almost all of the people in line with us were also there the day before. All going in for the kill again. The guy who told me about his bed and is the sole reason we bought one? He was three people in front of us.

This time, we bought a queen bed to replace our 10-year old IKEA bed in the guest room that wasn't in the best shape. Still functional, but definitely seen quite a few moving vans. I sold it the next day for $100. This new bed was $1,100 and marked down to $250. We wanted to get a new media console for the living room, but we didn't find much. We liked a few, but the one we really wanted was already being claimed by another couple as we approached it. We were able to score a couple chairs for my friend Alli who wasn't there from the new stock they put out for day #2.

And the bed we bought the previous day that they have to complete for us? They are likely getting that shipped to us for the inconvenience. Man, I love deal shopping.

Benjamin had a blast with his Gaw-bee and is still on a detox from her visit. They had french fries and milkshakes and lots of playtime together. We even went to a special local chocolate dessert place together and split a few decadent cakes. And now it's Wednesday and the daily fun continues with tantrums and food throwing and overall fun 2-year old behavior.

Gaw-bee, come back. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Venturing Out

Chicago winter this year has been brutal. We've only had a couple days above 40 degrees, and that usually peaks during naptime. It just hasn't been outside/park weather.

My poor, pitiful toddler has been cooped up in the house and has only been able to venture out to stores and storytime lately. We've had few playdates because it seems that this winter is also the winter of the sicks, and all of our local friends and their kiddos have been hit with it. We've also been dealt some sicks, but luckily Claire has yet to really get any of it.

I've been avoiding Benjamin's very favorite germ factories places because of my {possibly irrational} fear that Benjamin will get sick and then spread the germs to his sister which will then end up in the hospital at a wee 10lbs with RSV or something. I fear tubes coming out of her and IVs put in and all that. And not to mention the hospital bills. We're not done paying those from her birth, after all. They trickle in here and there.

I ask myself if it is worth it for that one hour of playtime to be sick and up all night with kids and dealing with scary sick for my wee baby. I've told myself for these last 2.5 months that it is not worth it, and so we spend lots of our time at home. It was easy at first because the baby was new and luckily slept 90% of her day. She's now becoming more alert and my attention cannot be fully on Benjamin; chasing him up and down the stairs and building forts.

Until today. Because yesterday Benjamin, for the first time ever, decided to nap zero minutes. I can't help but assume that it's because he wasn't tired because he had exerted only a small amount of the energy he had stored from the last sleep. And so he played. At 8:30, right before bed, he was running around the upstairs bathroom doing his very best (and pretty fantastic) monkey impression. He had way too much energy that needed releasing.

Today, we ventured out to the germ factory down the street. The indoor playhouse we used to spent every single afternoon playing at before Claire was born. When we drive by lately, he whines and complains that I am not stopping the car so he can play. I gave in today.

He exuded so much joy playing at that place this morning. Nevermind that sister had a blowout and I didn't bring a change of clothes and barely had enough wipes to manage the diaper alone. And that I practically had to drag him out kicking and screaming and the only way I got him out was to let him press the automatic door openers at the exit.

And you know what? He's napping. In his bed. Sound asleep.

Will we pay for it later? Who knows. I guess we will have to get outside of our bubble sooner or later. Two months of immunizations down... let's hope those pack a punch against the sicks of the world.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

CTF

Our house is lucky to have a Chief Toilet Flusher these days.

That's right. During all of his waking hours, Benjamin takes the opportunity to follow everyone into the bathroom, open the lid for them and wait for them to finish their business. Then, he flushes and puts the toilet lid down. He actually got upset with me for opening the lid this morning. He insisted I stand back up so he could do that for me.

He does it like he's getting paid.

Never has he taken any interest in doing his own business on the toilet or on one of the three mini toilets we have around our house, but maybe it's a potty-training start. Just maybe, right? I'm both eager and afraid of potty-training this little guy. He's stubborn as they come {ehm, no idea where he gets that} so this should be a test of everyone's patience. When I ask him before I know he is going to poop, he denies it on all accounts. A minute later, he announces the arrival of the poop in his diaper and requests a change. It's a start. Something tells me this could be a long process.

He totes around a mini potty often and they appear in fun places: the living room, kitchen, on top of our beds... but the bathroom is not a place that he sees the need for such things. Because he doesn't use them for anything but sitting. With his pants on. However, he did pee standing up last night while holding his man boy parts. In the bathtub. Which is the same place he pooped the day before. The tub has been seeing a lot of Clorox these days.

I plan to roll up the rugs and pull a bootcamp-style training if and when his interest is peaked. I have stocked up on pull-ups and he currently has 16 pairs of big-boy undies in his dresser, washed and ready. It will probably faily.

I'm waiting for the weather to change where he's wearing fewer layers already. But mostly, I'm waiting until he expresses personal interest in going on the pot.

Here's where I turn this into an advice column. We have those mini toilets, but I hear the toilet toppers are the way to go (for a price tag of $35!). Anyone have experience? Do you just stick with a big toilet and let them fall in on occasion? Okay, kidding. But recommendations on preparation?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cookie.

The middle child is obsessed with sweets. I realize it's totally our fault for introducing them, but we are also fans of the sugary stuff and sort of take on the thought that life is just too short not to indulge. Sure, within reason and all that jazz. We don't feel deprivation is the key, at least not for our family. To each their own.

I started introducing "dips" to him when I was desperate to get him to eat something at the table. He's still a terrible eater. From about 6-12 months, he rocked the dinner table. And it's been downhill ever since. He ate 7 bites of dinner last night. That required 2 bribes. I'm not proud of it, but I do need him eating. You're probably thinking, "he'll eat when he's hungry." Sure he will. I know that. But I do feel a certain level of responsibility and guilt when he goes to bed at night having consumed the equivalent of 1.5 pieces of bread and a spoonful of peanut butter. All day.

"Dips" were first condiment sauces and jam for his PBJ (inverted). And one morning, we had pancakes. I gave him syrup dips on the side. He then requested those with his peanut butter sandwich. And the requests never stopped. He even requests those specific dips with just about everything else he eats. Though honestly, he probably entertains their use for about two bites before ignoring them. It's a control thing, I'm assuming. He likes making choices. We usually decline the request for anything but sandwiches because... spaghetti with syrup? gross.me.out

Our local Safeway chain closed in Chicago. I might shed a tear if I write anymore about that. I've resorted to shopping for groceries at Costco and Target for the most part. A couple weeks ago, we drove to a local town nearby (but too far to be our normal grocery stomping grounds) to check out their grocery offerings. We've had friends rave about the new store. It's a cross between a normal grocery store and a Whole Foods, but with reasonable prices and loads of really unique products in addition to the normal stuff. They have the coolest car carts for kids. And even those mini carts. It's really the best grocery store I've been to in a long time. We bought a few things and then scooted by the bakery department and picked up four Italian cookies. I was dreaming of our trip to Boston. We purchased our treats and headed to their cool eat-in area and shared cookies and cute little cups of water with sliced cucumber (added touch!) that was available in their condiment area.

We went back to that store today for the second time ever. As we were pulling in to park, Benjamin (who was practicing saying his name on the way to the store--3 syllables can be tough!) said it.

"Cookie."

By the sight of the very large grocery establishment parking lot, he accurately deemed this store the "cookie" store. You know, because the one time he had been there before, we shared cookies.

Naturally, after our Dunkin Donuts breakfast this morning, we had to get a cookie before exiting. After all, we needed to positively reinforce the learning that was going on here.