Little B: 20 Months

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20 months in, and I’m continuing with my trend of being fashionably late with B’s monthly updates. Work has been getting in the way of the rest of my life lately. Luckily, vacation is on the horizon!

Milestones

Nothing really from a developmental  perspective, but I spent my first full weekend away from home since B was born, which I would consider a pretty big deal for all of us. I missed her like crazy, but she got to spend some quality time with her Daddy! When they picked me up from the airport, B refused to look at me when I got in the car. But, after a few moments and some smooches, she was all smiles again.

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Hanging out at the park during Daddy-Daughter weekend

Doing

In general, B likes to be busy, but has a nice balance between being active and quiet. Sometimes, she is all over the place, climbing on chairs and running through the house. But, she also seems equally happy coloring or reading a book.

Saying

She calls me “mommy” on occasion and it melts my heart. She has started to say short phrases, like “under there” when her ball or a crayon rolls under the couch and “I got it!” on the occasions that she saves the item from slipping away. Although the pronunciation isn’t totally clear, we know what she means! I’m still anxious for her to really start talking because the whining—oh my god, the whining—gets under my skin in the worst way sometimes!

Personality

She can be sassy—we’ve had more than a few eye rolls at the dinner table in recent weeks! She gets embarrassed if she gets in trouble for something, though, often hiding her face or running into a corner when she gets corrected for something.

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Looking a bit too much like a teenager!

Favorite Things

Shopping—she loves picking out clothes; looking out the window; being outside; taking selfies; her jumperoo (yes, still); flash cards (she has a set of alphabet and number flash cards at my mom’s that she really likes to look at. She always pulls out the card that features a cat with a blue balloon for some reason); stickers; yoga poses–we say “yoga baby” to her and she goes into downward dog; putting her laundry in the basket; waving to cars and trucks as they go by.

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All jumped out…for now.

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We love a morning selfie session

Favorite Songs

Still singing and dancing up a storm! She loves the Wild Kratts theme song and The Hot Dog Dance from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She loves saying “bye-bye” to her favorite TV shows when the credits start to roll.

Favorite Books

Nothing really new this month!

Least Favorite Things

Still doesn’t like to have her hair done. Unfortunately for her, we have recently discovered that she looks absolutely adorable in pigtails, so there is no escaping the hair brush and barrettes!

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The pigtails kill me!

Eating

She is a big fan of spaghetti and meatballs lately, and any little toddler-friendly treats like cheese crackers and puffs.

Fun Experiences

Easter festivities were fun this year! B enjoyed her Easter basket immensely. I painstakingly picked out the coloring books and other items included in it, and at the last minute added a bubble wand that cost less than a $1 at Target, which of course, ended up being her favorite item in the basket.

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In the dress she picked out herself

She also had a date day with Jack at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. I hadn’t been to the aquarium since an 8th grade class trip and was actually pretty cool! We all enjoyed the shark tank and the hippos.

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Do you see this, guys?!”

When I update you next, B will have added her first stamp to her passport—we are packing our bags and leaving for Ireland at the end of the week. I am curious/anxious to see how she does on her first international flight and how she copes with jet lag. Wish us all luck!

Little B: 19 Months

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I feel like I don’t have a ton of major updates to share this month, but I do know that our Little B seems to wake up cuter—and bigger—than the day before!

Milestones

Two more teeth, her top canines, appeared this month. They looked like little vampire fangs as they were coming in, and it was adorable, of course!

Doing

She loves carrying things up and down the stairs and thinks it’s hysterical to throw things down from the top of the steps. She really likes to “help” around the house lately, whether it’s by putting her toys away or handing her plate over when she is all done with her food.

Saying

Her newest word this month is “wuv” (love). She also loves saying “choo-choo” and “beep-beep” when she sees trains or cars. She babbles constantly. The way she strings sounds together makes me think that she is on her way to putting actual words together.

Personality

Strong-willed! If she doesn’t want to do something, like put on her shoes or a jacket, it can become quite the battle.

Favorite Things

Play food; stack rings; shape sorter; flash cards; baby doll and stroller; shoes; washing her hands at the sink; being tickled.

Favorite Songs

You’re a Grand Old Flag. She has a Duplo playset that is circus themed and she is obsessed with the two flags that came with it. So, I started singing this song to her and now she waves the flags around whenever she wants me to sing it. If I leave the words out, she’ll fill in the blanks (She is very dramatic about it when she says “brave!”)

Favorite Books

Lately, she really likes looking at photo books. Her particular favorite is a collection of all of the photos from her first birthday. She likes to look at the photos that feature the presents that she received and then she runs around the room pointing them out to us.

Least Favorite Things

When I wear glasses or pull my hair back; when I leave the room—I can’t even get away for a solo trip to the bathroom; bedtime—as soon as we finish our stories and shut out the lights, her lip starts to quiver and sometimes a few silent tears fall. She usually goes down with minimal fuss, but I think she just gets sad that the fun is over for the day; headbands or barrettes of any kind.

Eating

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She will never refuse a sweet treat. Here she is, scarfing a Termini’s cupcake at my mom and aunt’s birthday celebration

She is picky, picky, picky. Even the things that used to be favorites, like sweet potatoes and bananas, get tossed to the floor lately. Her current obsessions are grilled cheese and peanut butter. She is an absolute fiend, when it comes to the latter—and we all know where she gets that from, right? She knows the exact cabinet where it is kept at both our house and my mom’s and often gets the jar out herself. She loves it on toast, crackers and straight from the spoon. I’m so proud!

Fun Experiences

We did a Saint Patrick’s Day photo shoot. She was really into throwing the coins around!

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Now that Spring is finally here, there’s much more fun to be had! We can’t wait to go out exploring with our little adventurer!

Ten Years.

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Our very first picture together

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day that Chester and I first met. TEN years, people. That calls for a little trip down memory lane, yes?

Let’s look back to March of 2005, when I had just ended the relationship that I was in through half of high school and all of college. I quickly realized that spending all of those years with the same person had left me with virtually NO idea of how to date. Prospects in my circle of friends were slim and I was absolutely not the type to hang out in a bar, hoping that the love of my life would walk in.

So, I decided to take my search online. After several horrible experiences with guys from Match, I decided to move over to Yahoo! Personals (which has since been purchased by Match). I had no reason to believe that this would yield better results, but it was cheaper and you all know how I love a bargain.

I had been on for about three days when this cute guy (that would be Chester) sent me an “icebreaker”—a short, little message to say that he had liked my profile. Thankfully, I had chosen a photo taken before my despair over being single led me into the poor decision of letting my mom cut my hair.

I sat on the icebreaker for several days, not really sure if I wanted to be disappointed again. But, late one night, just before I was about to go to bed, I just felt like I had to answer him. Something was telling me that he was different.

And, the rest, as they say is history.

For the next month, we e-mailed and IMed (those were the days, right?) and agreed to meet in person. On April 23rd, I showed up to our agreed upon meeting, on the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets.

And, I waited. And, waited.And, waited.

It started to rain. I became annoyed that I had bothered to spend the money to have my hair professionally blow dried so that the mullet was less obvious.

When random guys riding by on bicycles started whistling at me, I mentally gave Chester five more minutes to show up before heading home.

Luckily for him, he careened around the corner in his silver car, just in time. Which was actually a full 45 minutes past the appointed time. So, it was also lucky for him that he was just as cute in person as he was photos.

And, I was hungry, so I figured the least he could do was buy me dinner. So, we headed to Continental.

I kept up the charade of being annoyed for awhile. But, he was so nice and easy to talk to that it was hard to stay mad. And, he didn’t seem to mind that my hair was reminiscent of David Bowie’s, circa 1972.

We ended the night with coffee at Cosi and a walk on Penn’s Landing. By then, I knew that he was the “The One.”

I cancelled my Yahoo! membership that night. By that summer, we had moved in together.

In 2009, we got engaged—which is also a good story, but one that I’ll save that for another day.

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Returning to where it all began, for our engagement photo shoot

We got married the next year.

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Three year later, B came along.

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We had NO idea what we were doing.

So, ten years, one apartment, one house, two cats, one dog, one kid, several job changes, thousands of miles traveled together by plane, train and automobile, hundreds of fights, millions of laughs later, there is still no one else that I would rather be with.

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One of my favorite photos of us, in Toledo, Spain on our honeymoon

Every day has been THE BEST.

What I Read: February/March

As you might have surmised from the looooong stretches of time that go between postings, I don’t have a lot of time to blog these days. Work is busier than ever lately and the weekends are full of fun with B and Chester and/or errands. Most of the time, I’m going, going, going from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Don’t get me wrong. I (mostly) love my job and I (totally and completely) love my family. But, writing used to be a much bigger part of what I did in my free time and I miss it. I have lots of ideas, but by the time I finally sit down at night my brain is completely fried. and the last thing I can do is string a sentence together.

Luckily, reading is my other favorite thing and that’s the level of activity I’m able to manage lately. So, here’s what I’ve gotten into during the past few weeks:

Us

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I have been meaning to read more of David Nicholls’ work ever since I read One Day a few years ago (I refuse to see the movie because I know it will spoil the magic for me). Like that work, Us, which was short listed for the Man Booker Prize before it was even published last year, is a story about a relationship between two people who seem completely ill-suited for each other.

Connie was a free-spirited artist before settling down with uptight biochemist Douglas. At the outset of the novel, Connie tells Douglas that she plans to leave him, after nearly two decades of marriage. The news comes shortly before they are about to embark on a “grand tour” of Europe with their son. The rest of the novel alternates between that less-than-relaxing tour and flashbacks to the earlier days of their courtship and marriage.

Although the characters are not terribly original (Douglas, for example, reminded me of the equally clueless, but strangely likable ,protagonist of The Rosie Project), the story is well crafted, humorous and poignant.

Orphan Train 

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In this novel by Christian Baker Kline, Molly is a troubled girl, who has spent much of her life being bounced around between foster homes in modern-day Maine; elderly widow Vivian lost her parents shortly after her family immigrated from Ireland to New York and was transported to a new life in the Midwest via an “orphan train.” Their lives intersect when Molly is made to work with VIvian as part of a community service requirement and the two discover just how much they have in common.

Based on the synopsis of the book, I thought I would love it but was ultimately disappointed. The writing style was overly simplistic, and that made it kind of boring. Halfway through I did a Google search to see if it was a young adult novel because that’s how it reads. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t!

I didn’t find myself caring about Molly at all, and skimmed the portions of the book that were told from her point of view. Vivian’s background was much more interesting and the novel could have been far more compelling had the story just focused on her. I wasn’t familiar with the orphan train movement, and it did make me want to learn more, so I might have to seek out some other books on the subject.

The One and Only

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I love me some “chick lit.” Sometimes, you just want an easy read with a predictable plot, right? Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors in this genre, but I don’t think that this is her best work.

Giffin’s main character, Shea Rigsby, has spent her entire life in the small college town of Walker, Texas. She loves all things football—especially the Walker College football team (so much so that she started working in college’s sports information department as a student and never left) Her best friend, Lucy, is the daughter of legendary Walker coach, Clive Carr. When a tragedy strikes close to home, Shea begins to question everything about her life and decides to make some big changes in the process.

The main ingredients are there—Tragedy! Best friends! True love!—but something was missing. Maybe I was disappointed because I can’t relate—at all—to football as a religion? Or, maybe I was slightly creeped out by Shea’s love interest (I don’t want to give anything away, but you might be able to figure it out from the brief description above)? Either way, I would get your chick lit fix elsewhere.

So, that’s all I’ve got this month, but I’m always on the lookout for recommendations for the next thing to pick up. Any suggestions?!

Little B: 18 Months

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Happy half-birthday Little B!  At 18 months, I feel like B has definitely left the baby stage behind and is firmly in toddler territory.

Milestones

She cut another molar this month and at her 18 month doctor’s appointment she weighed in at 21 pounds, 13 ounces and was 2 feet, 7 inches tall. She is mostly in 18 months size clothes now, although she still has a few 12 months size shirts that fit her.

Doing

She has been into jumping, climbing on the furniture and running (on her tiptoes, which is completely adorable. But, I’m hoping that she doesn’t take after me and still run like that at 32). She also loves to spin around, to make herself dizzy, and can occupy a decent chunk of time chasing and stepping on her shadow. I love watching her play lately, because she is starting to pretend a bit. She likes to “get ready to go to Target” by putting on her plastic bracelet and grabbing her purse. She “cooks supper” for her stuffed animals using her play kitchen and then feeds them and gives them water from her cup.

Personality

Sadly, the tantrum phase continues. Sometimes there is a clear trigger (like, it’s a half hour past nap time, and she has clearly reached the overtired stage). In other instances, everything seems to be totally fine and then she goes into meltdown mode. Equally frustrating is the fact that she seems extra prone to separation anxiety lately (like, the “hang on mom’s leg so she can’t even go across the room” variety). Morning and dinner hours have been particularly problematic lately. She recently decided that I am not allowed to put her down to get ready for work in the morning and that she isn’t a fan of sitting in her booster seat at the table. Sometimes, I feel like she just wants to squeeze in some extra snuggles and play time after we have been separated for eight-plus hours. While there is nothing I would love more, it’s just not always possible to do as I rush out the door for work in the morning and get through the limited time we have at night for our dinner/bath/bedtime routine. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to deal with these mood swings. I hate to see her cry and sometimes it is just easier to give her what she wants in the interest of everyone’s time and sanity, even if that means I’m doing my make-up with one hand or eating dinner with her on my lap (while telling myself that this, too, shall pass).

Fortunately, when she isn’t in a blubbering heap on the floor, she loves giving hugs (she is starting to wrap her arms around me to give me a real squeeze, which makes me melt!), kisses and rubbing noses when we ask her to “do nosey-nose.”

Saying

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Best friends

B seems to be picking up words pretty quickly now, so it’s hard to keep track of the new additions to her vocabulary. The funniest thing from the last month is that she has picked up our habit of scolding Poor Tracy. If the dog is barking at the mailman, for instance, Chester and I will often yell “back!” or “bed!” at her. Well, now B does it…sometimes when Tracy isn’t even really acting up. And, she does it in such an authoritative tone of voice while raising her hand or pointing a finger at Tracy, which makes it even funnier.

Favorite Books

Pretty much the same as the last few months, but lately she’s really been all about Madeline, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Ollie’s Easter Eggs lately! She knows a lot of the lines and characters in her favorite stories at this point, and if we mention these things in the course of normal conversation, she will run to her book basket and dig out the story in question.

Favorite Songs

She loves to dance to the The Hokey Pokey and Jingle Bells. The latter has long been a favorite, but lately she loves dancing along to it. We keep some bells on a hook by the back door so that Tracy can ring them to let us know she wants to go out, but more often than not, B steals them to dance with. And, she is still quite the little singer. Although she still can’t actually say most of the words, she is consistently getting better about imitating melodies.

Favorite Things

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We weren’t even going out, but she made me bundle her up over her pajamas

The pink chair that we take her monthly photos on, mostly because she has figured out how to make it rock back and forth; puzzles; crayon and paint-with-water activities; puzzles; stuffed animals (especially Arthur, panda, bunny and the Cat in the Hat); winter hats and her puffy vest; having her photo taken.

Least Favorite Things

Snow hitting her in the face; sitting at the dinner table, as mentioned above; having a wet diaper  or dirty hands.

Eating

I swear that this kid is trying to be a vegetarian. She eats ground turkey and beef inconsistently, and continues to refuse our attempts to get her interested in chicken or turkey in other forms. But, she still rarely turns down a pile of broccoli, sweet potatoes, crackers slathered in hummus or applesauce…and of course she loves sweets of any kind! I feel like we serve the same things all the time, so I definitely need to find some new menu inspiration ASAP.

Fun Experiences

The miserable winter has continued, but there have been some warmer days on occasion, during which we have tried to get in some outside time. One of her favorite places to run around is Rittenhouse Square Park.

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I think she thought she was doing a catalog photo shoot on this particular day. She was really posing it up!

We celebrated Valentine’s Day with a trip to Max Brenner for a chocolatey brunch. We went close to nap time, so B was slightly groggy when we sat down at our table, but after several sips of a chocolate milkshake she was all sugared up and couldn’t stop chatting and flirting with everyone around us. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday in our house without a themed photo-shoot.

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We are looking forward to the arrival of Spring this month and all of the adventures that are on the horizon!

Restaurant Review: Townsend

Remember when this used to mostly be a blog about food?

Me too.

For obvious reasons, we don’t go out to eat a ton these days. And, when we do, it’s usually for brunch or lunch, to the same places where we already know that the food will be decent, the service will be quick and we’ll get minimal dirty looks if our kid has a meltdown in the middle of the main course.

So, that’s why I was pretty excited to go out to an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Townsend, one of the latest additions to the ever-expanding dining options on East Passyunk Avenue. Chef Townsend Wentz was previously employed at various Center City institutions such as Lacroix and the Fountain at the Four Seasons, so it’s not totally surprising that he chose to fashion this restaurant as a modern French bistro.

The menu changes seasonally, and on the night we visited, it was heavy on the seafood options, which is always okay with me!

To start, I had the beef tartare. This was one of the best versions of the dish that I have had. The beef was prepared with just enough mustard and lemon to give it a memorable flavor, without being overpowering. The grilled slivers of bread, with melted sheep’s milk cheese were an excellent complement.

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Chester, meanwhile, had the oysters.He enjoyed them, but thought that the fact that they were cooked and topped with bacon masked some of their natural flavor. I have never heard anyone complain about something being topped with bacon, but I’m not really a fan of oysters, so what do I know?

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We shared the next course, escargot and brussel sprouts. The escargot were tender and flavorful and the sprouts were perfectly crunchy,and the sherry cream sauce took the whole dish over the top. The portion looked small, but the dish was so rich that it ended up being just enough. And, we liked it so much that we devoured it without taking a photo.

I feel like I rarely see bouillabaisse on restaurant menus, so I chose that for my entree. While it had a generous helping of seafood (a slightly crispy cod, tender scallops, mussels and clams), it also had a generous helping of Old Bay seasoning, which I didn’t love. It overpowered the flavors of the broth, completely masking any hit of saffron that is characteristic of the dish. I ended up with mixed feelings about the dish, and probably would choose something different on a future visit.

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Chester chose the venison, which was on the Valentine’s Day menu. I only had a small bite, but it was tender and flavorful, and not at all gamey (which is what I had expected).

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To end the meal, we shared the chocolate soufflé (which means that Chester had half a bite and I ate the rest). This may have been my favorite part of the meal. I mean, you can’t go wrong with warm, fluffy dark chocolate, right?

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Overall, I think that Townsend is a great addition to Passyunk Avenue and it’s definitely a nice date night option. It was definitely nice to have a grown-ups only dinner for the first time in a few months.

It was back to regularly scheduled programming the next day, as we took B to Max Brenner for Valentine’s Day brunch. She got the biggest sugar rush of her life from a few sips of a chocolate milkshake and it was completely adorable!

Little B: 17 Months

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With the exception of New Year’s festivities at the beginning of January, we have mostly been hibernating at home. It’s cold, and, after the rush of the holiday season, it is kind of nice not to have too many commitments. Still, B has managed to keep herself pretty busy during the last month, and as a result, we are busy chasing after her, as you’ll see in this latest update:

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Two more teeth (including another molar), have made their appearance.

Doing

B is like a little tornado. She runs through the house, leaving toys and books in her path. She bounces from one end of the couch to the other and tries to ride Poor Tracy (yes, that has become the dog’s proper name lately, although B has also taken to calling her “T”) like a pony. When she falls, it usually doesn’t phase her too much and she’ll spring right back up again. Overall, she is pretty coordinated, unless she is really tired. Then, she stumbles around like a drunk and it’s hilarious.

She still loves to dance. She will start doing the twist and/or bobbing up and down and flapping her hands when her favorite songs come on. It’s a move that we have labeled “The Bridget” and I don’t think words can adequately describe it. I need to start keeping my video camera at the ready so that I can capture it.

Stair-climbing has also been a favorite activity for awhile, but she is getting really good at going up and down while holding our hands. The prospect of going up and down has made it a bit easier to convince her to get a diaper change or go up to bed. All we have to say is “do you want to go up?” and she sprints to the staircase and waits for us to open the gate so she can start her climb.

Personality

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Cheese face!

Most of the time, B is giggly and affectionate  I don’t know if it’s the cold, continued teething or maybe the fact that she misses me during the day, but she seems to want to be closer than ever to me lately. Often, after she has her milk in the morning or dinner at night, she’ll lead me to the couch and we’ll have a good snuggle. Lately, if I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt, she’ll put her hand up my sleeve and just stroke my arm. Seriously, I notice the most random things. But to me, this is one of the sweetest gestures ever.

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Full of sass

Other times, I wonder if “terrible twos” have started early in our house. Lately, she has taken to hitting when she gets frustrated about something and pouting in the corner when we correct her bad behavior.  I know part of it is just frustration about still not being able to communicate her feelings, so I am hoping that as her communication keeps improving these outbursts will diminish as well.

Saying

New words this month include “A-den” (again); “Heh” (hair); “Yeah”; “Milp” (Milk). She is also becoming skilled at a wide variety of animal sounds (woof, quack and meow) and using non-verbal communication to get attention—fake crying and coughing are her current specialties.

Favorite Books

This month, it’s “LMNO Peas,” “Goodnight, Mr. Darcy,” “Bunny and Bee Can’t Sleep” and “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck.”

Favorite Songs

The theme song from “Arthur” remains her favorite, although “Elmo’s Song” and “Apples and Bananas” are becoming frequent requests. Sometimes she “sings” along with us, which mostly just involves her trying to copy the melody by making a collection of random sounds.

Favorite Things

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Little artist.

She loves her kitchen set and Little People toys and is getting better with crayons. Poor Tracy is still her favorite playmate. Although, their games are pretty one-sided, if you ask me, as they mostly involve B stealing Tracy’s ball, and Tracy looking on pitifully as B scampers away with it.

Eating

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At the big kids’ table

Last month, I mentioned that I was determined to start sneaking some vegetables into B’s diet. I started with a delicious (at least in my opinion) spinach, mango, pineapple and banana smoothie. She took one sip, and said “all done.”

After that, though, she started eating broccoli by the handful. Seriously. Maybe she resented my attempts to fool her into eating her vegetables and wanted to prove that she liked them after all. Or, maybe we just settled on something that she likes (at least for the moment). Either way, I consider this progress!

She has also become a big fan of cheese—grilled, with macaroni, in quesadillas or just by the slice. She still won’t touch chicken, and has been hit or miss with beef, which has been one of our other go-to proteins.

Overall, she really seems to love food. She has been practicing using a fork and gets excited and says “Mmmm!” whenever food-related words are mentioned. We have started a new routine of eating dinner together every night. Sometimes, she gets her own meal, but for the most part, we have been trying to give her whatever we are eating. I’m hoping that this will encourage her to try new things. It’s been hit or miss, but I really enjoy this little bit of time that we all have together at the end of the day, and I think she does too.

Fun Experiences

As I mentioned, we’ve kept things pretty low key this month, but I think we are already reaching the point where we are getting antsy for Spring. We have been hoping for at least one good snowstorm so that we can go out and build a snowman, but so far, everything that has been promised by the weather people has not materialized.

B seems to get especially bored and whiny if she spends a full day indoors (another way in which she is just like her parents) and lately if we tell her we are going out, she’s trying to open the door before we can even bundle her up! So, for the next few weeks, we’ll just keep looking forward to a time when it’s warm and sunny, so that we can take trips to the park, walks around the city and start packing for B’s first international trip—to Ireland! She got her very first passport and is all ready to go!

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Official passport photo. She might be detained for cuteness!

What I Read: January

Since I don’t really have any goals this year (I’m totally owning the fact that I’m completely lame, by the way), I haven’t set a reading goal like I did last year. But, I had fun sharing what I was reading in 2014, so I’ll continue on with these “What I Read” posts.

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China Dolls by Lisa See

This novel was one of the 2014 releases that I was most looking forward to reading. I am such a fan of See’s earlier novels. She always explores interesting time periods and weaves compelling stories of complex relationships between characters. As soon as I started the first chapter, I could tell that I was going to be disappointed.

China Dolls follows frenemies Helen, Ruby and Grace as they compete for the spotlight at San Francisco’s exclusive nightclub, The Forbidden City. Their backgrounds could not be more different, but they each harbor their own secrets and heartbreak from the past. Along the way, the girls alternately protect and betray each other, but situations become even more complicated after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The country is plunged into the war and suspicion is cast on the Japanese, including Ruby, who has been trying to pass as Chinese for years.

While the premise was promising and the details of the time period and setting seemed well-researched, it lacked the sparkle I was used to from See’s past efforts. The language was simplistic and disjointed. As with See’s other works, the main characters alternate as narrators, but in this case, the author failed to create distinct voices for each of them. I found myself having to go back to the beginning of each chapter from time to time to figure out who was telling the story at the moment.

If you haven’t read any of See’s works before, I would skip this one, and opt for Shanghai Girls or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. China Dolls is definitely not reflective of her usual style.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

After enjoying The Goldfinch last year, I really wanted to tackle Tartt’s earlier works. Like that book, The Secret History goes on for much longer than it should, so here is a quick synopsis: A group of six students at a private New England College somehow manage to circumvent all of the rules of the institution to study the Classics with a professor that they all seem to think is some kind of god. Ultimately, their studies convince them to pursue all kinds of questionable behavior, including murder (I’m not giving anything away—the book opens with said murder and the rest of the novel explains why they did it).

A few people had told me that this was Tartt’s best work, but I still don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I could not stop reading it because the story was so good. It was suspenseful in all the right places and I just had to stay up past my bedtime so I could see what would happen. But, on the other hand the characters were just so smug, annoying and self-absorbed that I wanted to hit them. And the writing was overblown and wordy that I just wanted to finish it.

Sure, the exploration of exactly what is going on in the minds of the characters and the level of paranoia and desperation that they succumb to as the deal with the consequences of their actions is interesting, but much like The Goldfinch it seemed like there were parts where the author was just writing to write.

The bottom line is that I I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. I’d love to know what others think, since based on reading other reviews, I seem to be in the minority!

Hello, 2015

mummersB loved the Mummers this year…although she actually thought this guy was Santa.

Once again, I am fashionably late with a new year’s post. This year, I’m going to go with the excuse that it the new year didn’t technically start until the end of vacation/return to work. And, since that just happened this past Monday, I was allowed a few extra days to adjust back to reality and get myself together.

Needless to say, I have zero resolutions that involve a commitment to be more timely and/or stop procrastinating.

In fact, I have no resolutions at all.

In 2014, I made a bunch of them. I was going through kind of a big period of adjustment this time last year, embarking on my first full year as a mom, planning a transition between jobs and basically just trying to balance everything in my life. So, making a list of goals was helpful in managing all of the things that were going on in my head and helping me to stay (somewhat) sane.

As this year begins, I’m definitely in a better place in terms of my career path and I’ve managed to carve out some time for the things that are important to me. And, although I am always going to be a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve gotten better about channeling my energy to the things that actually matter (for example, B’s habit of smearing oatmeal and yogurt all over her face and clothes doesn’t even phase me anymore. If it keeps her quiet for five minutes while I try to wash a few of the breakfast dishes, then that’s awesome).

All that to say, I’m happy with the way things are going at the moment. I feel more focused and like I actually know what I’m doing in the areas of my life that matter to me the most. So, I’m just going to sit back and see where the year takes me.

It would be nice to have some kind of measurable goal (like last year’s 12-book goal) or a long-term creative project (I know a lot of people are fans of the photo-a-day projects, which would be great for helping me with my ongoing quest to improve my photography skills but seem like too big of a commitment). But, since I haven’t figured out what either one of those things are going to be yet, I’ll just see what happens along the way.

Wherever things end up, I’ll be happy to have you all along for the ride again in 2015!

Little B: 16 Months

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We had a much easier time with this month’s photo shoot, due in part to her sudden interest in sitting in “big girl” chairs.

I hope everyone is enjoying the first days of 2015!

Chester and I were off from work for two weeks, and had the best time hanging out with B. It was rough going back to reality yesterday–I got used to the extra snuggles and time with my little family. The weekend can’t come soon enough!

A few days before we rang in the new year B celebrated her 16 month birthday. So, here’s what is new in her world:

Doing

B is officially off and running on her own! Chester kept saying that his birthday wish was for her to walk and it seems that she heard him. His birthday was December 3rd and that is pretty much the last day she needed us to hold her by both hands to walk.

Everyone kept telling us that we would regret wishing for her to walk, because then we would have to chase her around all the time. We definitely are putting miles on our running shoes, but are so happy that she has mastered this skill I love walking down the street holding her little hand and she seems a lot happier when she is walking and exploring on her own. But, there have been quite a few meltdowns–in public–when we have had to redirect her or keep her from climbing up and down steps! She definitely doesn’t like being told what to do.

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Her new-found mobility meant she could get up close and personal with the tree this year. 

 

Saying

This month was all about Christmas-related words, including “Tee” (tree) and “Ta” (Santa). She has also learned “hush” as a result of our repeated recitations for Good Night moon, and I love when she chimes in at that part of the story. “All done” seems to be the phrase of the moment. She says it when she has had enough to eat, when she is sleepy or when she just wants us to stop doing something that annoys her (like, brushing her teeth or rinsing shampoo out of her hair).

Relatedly, I have been amazed by how much she seems to remember. For example, Santa dropped off the book Press Here, which we took out of the library awhile back. If you haven’t seen it, it’s kind of an interactive book (press on the dots, shake the book, etc.) and as soon as she opened it, she knew exactly what to do, despite not having seen it for more than a month.

2Putting her new Elmo ornament on the “tee”

Milestones

She cut a bottom molar, which brings her total number of teeth to nine. She loves showing off her teeth, grinning broadly when we ask to see them. I can’t wait until the rest of these molars come in though–I hate to see how much pain they are causing her.

Eating

She has definitely inherited her mother’s sweet tooth, judging from the way she gobbled up Christmas cookies (especially her Grauntie’s butter cookies). Lately, she has been snacking on wheat crackers, spread with hummus. In an effort to get her to eat more fruits and vegetables, I’ve started hiding them in baked goods. Hits so far have included carrot muffins (substituted whole wheat flour and brown sugar; reduced the sugar to 1/4 cup) and breakfast cookies (substituted pears for apples in the first recipe of this post). I am super flattered by the rate at which she gobbles them up. If anyone has any other suggestions to share regarding ways to sneak greens in, I’m all ears (I’m already planning to delve into smoothies this month).

Favorite Things

Now that B can walk, she has been all over the dog. Bascially, there is no safe place for Tracy to hide. B loves to give Tracy hugs and often tries to climb into bed with her. Tracy is so good with B and never shows any sign of wanting to be left alone. It could also have something to do with the fact that B has also discovered the cabinet where we keep the dog treats and is more than happy to dispense way more of them than Tracy is usually allowed.

B Tracy CollageBest buddies

B has really enjoyed the Christmas music during the last few weeks. In particular, anything by Michael Buble, The Jackson Five, Jingle Bell Rock and Holly Jolly Christmas can always perk her up. She also really loves the theme songs to all of her PBS shows. Sometimes, she’ll just say “Ar-ra!” (Arthur) and start swaying back and forth, which is our cue to sing for her.  She actually prefers that little ditty at bedtime, instead of “You Are My Sunshine” which I have been singing to her since she was born.

She got A LOT of new toys for Christmas, and has really been enjoying her kitchen set, Little People train and stuffed Olaf (she hasn’t seen Frozen yet, but this plays into her current infatuation with snowmen). But, she has taken a renewed interest in toys that have been around for awhile like her Poppin’ Park Giraffe and her push walker. Like I said in my Christmas post, it’s almost as if she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Mostly, though, she likes to take things off shelves and put them back. Or, she will move things from the toy box, to the couch to the floor. It doesn’t seem like “play” in the traditional sense, but it keeps her occupied for ten to fifteen minutes sometimes, so I’ll take it!

Books

Now that B is a little more mobile, I sometimes will get ready in the bathroom while she walks back and forth between the upstairs rooms (Not to worry–we have a small house so I can still keep an eye on her and a baby gate blocking the stairs). Sometimes, though, she will go into her room and things will get strangely quiet. I race in, fearing the worst, only to find that she is occupied with a  pile of books that she has pulled from the shelf.

All that to say: books are basically still her favorite. Lately, we have had lots of requests for Click, Clack Moo, Guess How Much I Love You?, Put Me In the Zoo Elmo’s Twelve Days of Christmas, and Olivia Saves the Circus.

Least favorite things

Naps. As I’ve chronicled at length, they have never been her favorite thing, but she fights them now more than ever lately and continues to be completely inconsistent about them. Sometimes, she’ll go down before 11 a.m. and other days, won’t even think about it until 1 or 2 p.m. It takes her forever to settle down and she might only stay asleep for 40 minutes or so.

She has recently taken a real liking to her Glow-worm, and if she is upset about going to bed at night, we just need to tuck it in next to her and she calms down. This technique, unfortunately does not help with the nap situation, but since “Glow” was my constant companion when I was little, so I’m glad she is starting to take an interest in hers!

Fun Experiences

Christmas_2014-6_filteredThis year’s Christmas card image. Concept and photo by Chester; Santa impersonation by Yours Truly.

Preparing for and celebrating Christmas was definitely the highlight of the last month.

B had a great time with her Christmas Countdown. At first, she didn’t know what to make of the calendar, but after a few days, she got the hang of pulling off the tags and turning them around to “read” what was in store for her that day. She loved all of the little presents that the elves left for her and enjoyed taking in the Christmas lights and watching Christmas movies (Frosty the Snowman was her favorite). I’m glad she can’t read yet, though, because a few times, we had to rearrange or substitute activities due to inclement weather or scheduling conflicts. I probably won’t be able to fool her as easily in the coming years!

countdown collageSome of our Christmas Countdown Highlights: Top Row: unwrapping her Little People Christmas Village, enjoying Frosty, while drinking chocolate milk; Center: Choosing the first tag; Bottom row: Gluing cotton balls on Santa’s face to make his beard, writing a letter to Santa.

Of course, no Christmas season in Philly would be complete without a visit to Macy’s. B was entranced by the Dickens’ Village, ambivalent about the light show and not at all happy to sit on Santa’s lap. I quickly placed her request for a giant Elmo, and we all posed for a photo to keep the tears at bay.

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In awe of the prize turkey in the Christmas Carol Village

4Waiting for the light show to start. She lasted about two minutes when it actually did.

Macy's SantaI was so not prepared for a photo shoot on this particular day.

The fun continued after Christmas, starting with a trip to the zoo with Auntie B and Uncle Billy. I had never been to the zoo in the off season. Although we went on an unseasonably warm day, there were no crowds and the animals were much more active than they usually are during the warmer months.

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Then, B and her boyfriend Jack went on a date to the Please Touch Museum. I think that the grown-ups had as much fun as they did (except when I got yelled at–loudly–by a seven year old when I accidentally called the trolley in the transportation exhibit a bus. How embarrassing.)! I hadn’t been to the museum since it moved to Centennial Hall in Fairmount Park and it was quite impressive, with lots to see and do.

Please_Touch_Dec_2014-1Smitten

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Please_Touch_Dec_2014-6Going down the rabbit hole, with Alice

So, as you can see, we capped up 2014 right! I know there are great things in store for us this year–I hope that the same can be said for you and yours!