Weekend Adventures: Spruce Street Harbor Park

On weekend mornings, when B wakes up, we tell her that we are going to get ready to go on adventure. Sometimes, it’s a trip the park and Starbucks for a cake pop and caffeine fix. Other times, we take advantage of our memberships at the zoo or the Please Touch Museum (if the weather isn’t great). B is happy doing just about anything and Alice just goes with the flow. And, we all are a bit happier when we can get out of the house for awhile.

Luckily, this is also the time of year when the weather is changing and there are plenty of fun, kid-friendly things to take advantage of in the city. One such destination is Spruce Street Harbor Park, which recently re-opened for its third season along the Penn’s Landing Waterfront.

There are hammocks to lounge on, games to play and food options galore, including an outpost for Jose Garces’ Distrito, Kevin Sbraga’s Fat Ham, Franklin Fountain and Federal Donuts. A converted shipping container has been turned into a Boardwalk style arcade, complete with video games, Skeeball and a photo booth. On weekends, vendors from the Art Star and the Punk Rock Flea Market set up stands near the Columbus Monument for those who want to partake in a bit of outdoor shopping. Later in the season, the RiverRink will be transformed once again into an outdoor roller skating rink, which I would love to try out with B!

This past Saturday, we had a great time looking at the boats, eating fried chicken from Federal Donuts and playing with gigantic Legos at the park.

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How she usually spends most of our adventures.

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IMG_2882In addition to giant Legos, you can also play giant Jenga, chess or Baggo

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Our waterfront has long seemed like a long stretch of missed opportunities, so I love seeing the space transformed in this way. I think we’ll be spending a lot of time here this summer!

Alice: Two Months

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The flu hit our house recently, so I’m a little bit late with Alice’s two month update. Chester, B and I all came down with it, and we decided that it would be best for her to go stay at my mom’s while we were all full of germs. Although I am so grateful that she didn’t get sick, it was one of the longest weeks of my life. I missed her like crazy!

At her two month appointment, Alice weighed in at 13 pounds and 15 ounces and was 23.5 inches long. This kid loves to eat, and will rarely go past three hours without a feeding during the day. Luckily, nights are much better. She has been sleeping through the night and then some (sometimes for up to 12 hours) for the last couple of days! Of course, I’m sure I just jinxed our good luck by putting that in writing. Oh well…

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In addition to her food, Alice loves to suck her thumb (she’s still spitting out those pacifiers), grab for her toys while on her playmat, look at the baby in the bathroom mirror and hang around with her big sister. She has revised her previous opinion on white noise and now loves to fall asleep listening to nature sounds on my phone. She is also a champion snuggler and there’s nothing that I love more than the feeling of her little head buried in my neck.

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She has crazy hair, just like her sister did.

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Alice went through a fussy period at around six weeks, during which I was convinced that I had given birth to The Most Miserable Baby in the World. We adjusted her formula and she went back to treating us to gigantic smiles and silent belly laughs on a regular basis. I think she is going to be a bit of a goofball.

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Sometimes, she just cracks herself up for no reason at all.

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Alice slept through her first visit to the Please Touch Museum…

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…and through most of the Easter festivities, including an egg hunt, basket opening on Easter morning and dinner at my mom’s. But, she and B looked absoutely adorable in the matching dresses. I still can’t decide who wore it better!

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Super excited to go egg hunting!

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We tried–and failed–all day, to get a picture of the two of them together…

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…And to get a picture of Alice when she was awake. This was the best we could do, just as she woke up from a nap.

I will be heading back to work in a couple of weeks. I can’t believe that three months went by so fast! I could use more time to really figure out how to manage two. Still, I’m grateful for the time with Alice and the opportunity to spend some time with B, while she is at such a fun age. Although I am looking forward to getting back into a real routine, I will miss both of my girls–and our morning snuggles–tremendously!

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Alice: One Month

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As I look back over our first month as a family of four, I can safely say that going from one child to two was a lot harder than going from zero to one.

At the moment, Alice is the “easy” one because her needs can be boiled down to three categories: food, diaper change and sleep. But, I had forgotten how tough it is to decipher which of the three an infant needs at any given time and how difficult it can be to figure out how to best satisfy them.

Early on, I fell back on what worked with B (well, what I could remember working, that is. It turns out that my memory of B’s early days is actually pretty foggy), but Alice has completely different preferences. For example, the white noise machine could lull B to sleep in a matter of minutes minutes; Alice just seems to be annoyed by any type of shushing sound and prefers the quiet (and, randomly, when I sing God Only Knows by the Beach Boys and when my mom sings Thank God I’m a Country Boy by John Denver). B loved her pacifier from day one, but Alice will spit it across the room when she figures out that there isn’t any food coming from it. I definitely feel like I am still getting to know her.

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When we brought B home, we could still find moments of calm amid the chaos. Now, the house is always noisy and someone is always demanding something—food, a nap, attention, help going to the bathroom, an adjustment for a crooked sock, etc. We have also had some really special moments when B and Alice go into meltdown mode at exactly the same time. It’s like they have already learned how to egg each other on. Infants and toddlers are needy in different ways, and we usually don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one person at a time anymore.

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In the past, we used to do a St. Patrick’s Day photo shoot. This was the best we could muster this year.

I thought that the process of leaving the house with just one kid in tow was ridiculous, but it turns out that getting two out the door is even more of a herculean effort. How can I start getting ready for an outing at 5 a.m. and still not be ready to go six hours later? By the time I pack up half of the house, dress two kids and haul everything out the door, a walk to the park hardly seems worth it. But, if the alternative is staying home with a stir-crazy toddler and an infant who can’t take a decent nap because of said toddler yelling at top volume, then I most certainly will use my last bit of energy to haul 100 pounds of infant car seat and double stroller out of the door.

Basically, life feels like one of those episodes of Grey’s Anatomy where the victims of a major catastrophe have descended upon Seattle Grace (wait, that’s every episode of Grey’s Anatomy) and the doctors have to figure out who to help first. Luckily, we haven’t lost anyone yet, but Chester and I definitely have acquired a few more grey hairs and an even greater appreciation for bedtime.

Fortunately, Alice is generally a very content baby. With the exception of the hours of 5 to 8 p.m., she has been smiling pretty much since the day she was born. “Poor Alice” is sort of her nickname at the moment, because she just hangs out in the background while we go about our business and her big sister takes up everyone’s attention. When B cried as a newborn someone picked her up in less than five seconds; Alice might have to wait until we are finished wiping B’s backside or dispensing cheese crackers to get any kind of sympathy.

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Poor Alice will probably have to share spotlight with B during her monthly photo shoots.

Alice is very alert and would rather watch what’s going on around her than take a nap. She makes a lot of eye contact and has pretty good control of her neck already. At her one month doctor’s appointment, she weighed in at 11 pounds, 2 ounces and was 22 inches long, making her look more like a three month old. All of these things make her seem much older than a month. I sort of feel like I got cheated out of the delicate newborn stage, but at the same time, it was nice not to feel like I was going to break her!

I am glad that we battled through our exhaustion during her first week at home to do a photo shoot, that captured what she looked during the brief time in which she was still teeny tiny. I go back and forth regarding who Alice looks like. There is a resemblance to B, of course, which I think is most noticeable if you compare newborn photos of them when they are sleeping. The consensus seems to be that she resembles me/my side of the family quite a bit. Specifically, I think she looks a lot like my grandfather, so sometimes we call her “Little Chick.”

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These photos were taken by the incredibly talented April Ziegler. Her blog has plenty of additional images of our newborn session and of our family/maternity session, from January, if you are interested in checking them out!

B was a a bit timid around Alice for the first couple of weeks, but now the minute that she wakes up she asks to “go see my baby.” As annoying as Daniel Tiger is, I think I owe him a thank you for teaching B how to be a good big sister. She loves to hold Alice and stroke her head, and sometimes she’ll grab Alice’s hand and say “she’s touching my paw!” just like Daniel says about his sister, Margaret. B loves “playing” with her, which at the moment basically involves Alice laying in her baby gym while B shoves a variety of toys in her face and says “Look at this, Baby Alice.” I would think that that would overstimulate a baby, but Alice doesn’t seem at all bothered by it. She definitely responds to B’s voice and reserves her broadest smiles and sweetest coos for her big sister.

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First trip to the park together.

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Brunching at Sabrina’s

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Taken the first time that B held Alice. She was such a proud big sister!

Watching B and Alice get to know each other was definitely my favorite part of the last month, and I’m sure it will be one of the highlights of the year to come.

Little B: 2.5 Years Old

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Photo by April Ziegler 

It’s been a momentous couple of weeks in our house, as Alice was born a little over two weeks ago and this past week, B turned 2 1/2!

I have missed sharing monthly updates about B in this space, so I thought I would put together a little half-birthday update to commemorate this milestone. Here is what she has been up to!

Stats

At her 2 1/2 year check-up, she weighed in at 26 pound, 10.8 ounces and was 2 feet and 10 inches tall.

Personality

When I was being a particularly difficult child (which was often), my mom used to say “I hope you have ten just like you.”

Well, I have at least one.

Dramatic doesn’t even begin to describe our Little B. When she’s happy, she’s really happy. When she’s angry, she’s really angry. You really never know from one minute to the next which B you are going to get. Sometimes, she will hug me tightly and sweetly declare “we’re best friends” and in the next instant she will throw a punch at me because she wanted “box Cheerios” and not the kind that I dared to give her out of a ziploc baggie.

I have also noticed a bit of a bossy streak in her lately. “Playing” with B involves taking a lot of orders. You may only dance or sing if she explictly asks you to. She will hand me a crayon sometimes and say “Mommy, do it!” and God help me if I don’t color the exact spot that she had in mind. This morning, she dumped all of her play food out of it’s storage container and sweetly said “Mommy, clean it up” before walking away to destroy something else.

Needless to say, she is becoming quite familiar with the time-out chair lately.

On the positive side, B can be pretty funny. She LOVES to talk and seems to know just what to say and the tone of voice to say it in to get people to laugh. I like that we can have “conversations” now, about the important things in life, like her favorite TV shows.

I’ve shared a few of the gems that have come out of her mouth in an earlier post, and since then I have added a few new favorites to the list:

  • Sometimes, she’ll snuggle up next to me on the couch and say “B hang with Mommy.”
  • When I was pregnant, she would rub my belly and say “Mommy’s tummy aches.” At least she was sympathetic.
  • If she sees a commerical for something she really likes, she’ll yell, “Oh look! It’s so cute!”
  • When she’s in a good mood, she’ll say “B is happy for… [insert whatever is making B happy at the moment]”
  • She picked the word “friggin’” from Chester. In public places she has been heard to say, “this friggin’ dog/toy/car seat/etc.” at top volume.
  • “Probably” is by far her favorite word at the moment. I lose count of how many times in a day she says it lately. Sometimes, she will use it correctly and other times she just throws it into a sentence, just because (as in, “Tracy is probably a dog.”)
  • Occasionally, she’ll reply “Okay, sweetie pie!” if we ask her to do something.
  • Sometimes, she’ll squeeze her eyes shut and yell, “I can’t see my eyes!”
  • One of her favorite TV shows at the moment is Bubble Guppies and she says “B have a tail, just like a Bubble Guppy.” Recently my mom asked her where her tail was, and B showed her the tag sewn into the back of her underwear.

Favorite Things

B could spend hours doing puzzles, building with blocks, playing with Play-doh and reading. I introduced her to the idea of picnics on the floor recently, in an attempt both to get her excited to eat and also to avoid lifting her in/out of the chair when I was at my most gigantic. Now, one of her favorite activities is to line up all of her stuffed animals on the floor and set up a picnic for them using her play food.

In addition to Bubble Guppies, she loves Team Umizoomi, Paw Patrol, Blaze and the Monster Machines and also has a strange obsession with surprise egg videos on YouTube (If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is an example. I don’t understand why anyone felt the need to make these videos and put them online, but there are hundreds of them out there, and some of them have millions of views).

She loves to sing with her microphone, “just like the Bubble Guppies” and she takes dancing pretty seriously, too. I love when I hear her yell “I need my dancing shoes!” (which are either her Uggs or our pink polka dot rainboots, depending on the day) because I know that means she is about to break into the Hot Dog Dance from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

Eating

B is still very picky. Her favorite things at the moment are mostly of the carb variety—Cheerios (still), oatmeal with honey, crackers, frozen bread (yep, she will chow down on it straight from the freezer) and spaghetti. From time to time she will mix it up and eat shredded cheddar cheese (which she calls “sprinkle cheese”) or an apple and butternut squash pouch.

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Pink cake pops from Starbucks are her new favorite treat. 

Milestones

There were quite a few big accomplishments during the last six months.

She made her first trip the dentist (no cavities!). As you might imagine, she was less than thrilled about the whole experience. But, five months later, she is still talking about the purple balloon that they gave her as she left the office.

She made great progress on the potty training front. She now only wears pull-ups at night and accidents are few and far between. So far, though, she is only comfortable using her little potty. So, sometimes outings are a bit stressful as we race to get home before she needs to use the bathroom.

In preparation for her little sister’s arrival, she vacated her crib and moved to a real bed in January. On the first few nights, things started off well but major meltdowns ensued when Chester and I left the room after bedtime stories. She settled down within a week, though, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Now, I think bedtime is one of her favorite parts of the day and she has a whole routine which involves arranging multiple stuffed animals (which she calls “pets” or “friends”), rubber ducks and other toys in her “big girl bed.”

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First night in the new bed!

Speaking of her little sister, it’s safe to say that Alice’s arrival was the biggest thing to happen to all of us in the last six months!

When B came to visit us in the hospital the day that Alice was born, it seemed as if she had grown up overnight. Next to her baby sister, B looked like a giant, and not like the little girl who I had kissed goodbye only the day before. Fortunately, I had mentally prepared myself for the fact that this might happen, so it didn’t send me into a post-pregnancy meltdown.

I have been so proud of how B has handled the chaos of having a newborn in the house. She seems to be getting more comfortable around Alice with each passing day. My heart feels like it might explode when she says “I love my baby” or I catch her giving Alice a gentle pat on the head or tickling her feet while she lays in her Mamaroo or Rock and Play.

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Taking their first nap together, on Alice’s first day home.

Fun Experiences

The last six months were very busy, because they involved a bunch of our favorite fall activities, the holiday season, and our last few outings as a family of three. Here are some of the highlights:

September

I had a weekend event in Washington, D.C. for work, so Chester and B came with me. B loves pandas, so we planned a trip to the National Zoo to see them.

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We spent the better part of the day waiting for the pandas to come out and play. When they finally did, B was asleep!

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The next day, B and daddy got to hang out at the park while mommy worked.

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October

She went on her first apple-picking adventure at Linvilla Orchards!

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We had a family outing to Boo at the Zoo. For the second year in a row, B refused to wear her costume, but seemed to enjoy collecting treats anyway.

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We bribed her with the promise of bubbles to get her to dress up on Halloween.

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Trick-or-treating at Tee-Tee’s

November

We took a trip to the Strasburg Railroad to meet Thomas and Percy.

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Taking a ride on Thomas

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December

We had a lot of fun during the Christmas season, including cookie baking, a visit with Santa, a Christmas card photo shoot and presents galore.

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Enjoying the carousel at Franklin Square Park

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Checking out the holiday train display at the Reading Terminal Market 

It was unseasonably warm in December, so we were even able to squeeze in a few trips to the park!

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And, when the weather is dreary, the Please Touch Museum always entertains! We made it a point to check out the special Clifford exhibit, since he is one of B’s favorite characters (she even had a chance to meet him in person on a prior visit to the PTM!)

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January

We did a photo shoot at Longwood Gardens to commemorate our last few weeks as a family of 3. B was having none of it at first, but after she ate a peanut butter sandwich and some owl crackers, she was hamming it up for the camera, as usual.

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A blizzard named Jonas dumped more than 2 feet of snow on Philly. I would have loved to have taken B out to play in it, but at more than eight months pregnant, it just wasn’t going to happen. So, we watched daddy clean up the mess from the comfort of our living room. B loved when he threw snowballs at the window!

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On Valentine’s Day we went to the Please Touch Museum, to check out the new Curious George exhibit.

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B got to meet the George himself! I can’t even describe how excited she was about it. She talked non-stop in line while we were waiting for our turn, and when she got to the front of the line, she basically just screamed with delight at George and could not stop looking at him.

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Also, I’m gigantic here.

Thankfully, this happened just four days later.

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Whew! I’m exhausted just reading all of that.

I am sure that the next six months, as we count down to B’s third birthday, will be just as busy! I’m in no hurry for that day to get here, though. I don’t think I’m ready to handle a threenager!

Introducing Alice!

I’m so happy to officially introduce the newest addition to our family!

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Alice Bing

Born: February 18, 2016 at 7:53 a.m.

8 pounds, 6 ounces

21.5 inches long

Yes, I missed out on having my Pisces baby by just one day. But, Aquarians are awesome too! And, by the time 39 weeks rolled around, I felt so exhausted, tired, achy and large that if I had remained pregnant even just one day longer I might have jumped off a bridge.

Fortunately, my blood pressure was high during my weekly doctor’s appointment and after an afternoon being hooked up to monitors at the hospital, the doctors decided to induce labor to avoid any further complications.

The induction was a long process, taking more than 12 hours from start to finish. I would have preferred to spend the early part of labor up and about and distracted by other things, like I did the first time, instead of being in an uncomfortable hospital bed while trying to watch reruns of Downton Abbey on a TV that alternated between losing its picture and sound. But, overall, I was a lot less anxious about giving birth because I knew what to expect and I was just relieved that the end was in sight. And, the thing I was most apprehensive about—getting the epidural—went a million times better, thanks to an anesthetsologist who actually knew what he was doing.

So, now we have started a new chapter in our lives as a family of four. Nearly one week in, and we are all still alive!

My diaper changing skills are rusty and I had forgotten how scary it can be to handle a person who can’t hold up their own head. But, I feel more confident in my ability to care for a tiny human than I did when B was born. So, I’ve actually been able to squeeze in a bit of sleep at night, instead of spending time Googling “why does my newborn sneeze so much?” and other first-time parent concerns. Which is good, because the newborn phase is even more exhausting when you are also trying to keep a toddler fed, happy and entertained.

As for B, she seems very happy with the new addition. Although we have told her it’s okay to give Alice a gentle pat or a kiss, B prefers just to stare at her, giggling ocassionally at the funny noises her sister makes and declaring “I like the baby!” She gives Alice a pass for all of her crying, telling us “She’s just a little bit fussy!” She helps us grab diapers, burp cloths and books to read to her sister upon our request. I’m hoping this attitude stick around, and she isn’t asking us to send Alice back by next week.

While I was in the hospital, the doctors and nurses joked that I made having a baby look so easy that I should just keep doing it. Um…I think I’ll pass. Our little family is perfect, just as it is.

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Life Lately: 35 Weeks

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A sneak peek from our recent family photo shoot at Longwood Gardens, with April Ziegler Photography

I am 35 weeks pregnant, which means this baby could be here really soon, or weeks from now. I think you all know by know how much I love surprises. So, this does not bother me. Like, at all.

[insert sarcastic emoji here].

All of the uncertainty associated with the end of pregnancy can produce the wildest thought patterns ever.

For example:

“I would deliver this kid myself, in the bathtub, just so she will stop resting on this bundle of nerves somewhere in my pelvis, that I didn’t even know existed.”

Five minutes later…

“Actually, I hope that this kid doesn’t decide to come on a Sunday night. I don’t want to miss Downtown Abbey.”

Or, when trying to get dressed in the morning:

“Ugh. I cannot wait to burn all of these maternity clothes.”

Two minutes later…

“These maternity leggings are just so. freaking. comfortable. Can I wear them even after the baby comes?”

Or, when I see two little girls, who I assume are sisters, being adorable to each other in Target:

“Awww…having two little girls is going to be amazing. B is going to be the best big sister ever!” [cue happy tears]

Less than a minute later, when said girls start pulling each other’s hair and the older one threatens to push the little one out of the cart…

“Holy shit. What was I thinking? We should have just gotten a goldfish!” [cue panicked sobs]

There is one thing I’m sure of though: I will miss B.

Obviously, she isn’t going anywhere, but there is such a short amount of time left time where she will be my one and only.

During the past two and a half years (and more than that, if you count all of those months of pregnancy), B has been the center of my world. I have gotten to know every little thing about her. All of her firsts are cataloged, in painstaking detail, in my memory. I have felt my heart break a little every morning when I realize that she looks a little more grown up than she did when I put her to bed the night before. When she has been happy, excited, sad, frustrated or sick, I’ve felt all of those things right along with her.

I have felt pretty guilty during this pregnancy, because it seems like the only time I am completely focused on this new baby are those 30 seconds at the doctor’s office each month when I get to hear her heartbeat. When I think about this baby, B always pops into my head first.

“How will B react to a sibling?”

“Will B feel like she is being replaced when we move her out of her crib and put baby number two in it?”

“How will I make time for B when I’m caring for a newborn?”

And, so on.

I am prepared to feel overwhelmed for awhile as we settle into being a family of four (Heck, I still feel like we are trying to settle in to being a family of three, sometimes. So, at least we are accustomed to chaos at this point). But, I can’t say that I relate to the worry that I lot of second-time parents have, which is that they won’t love their new baby as much as their first. I am pretty sure that our hearts are like the Grinch’s—they can just expand when the situation calls for it. I know that the moment my second little girl is placed in my arms, I’ll fall in love.

It’s hard to find the right words to express what I feel about B. The only way I can sum it up is that there will always be something special about her.

She is the one who made us a family. She lets me make all of those first time parent mistakes and doesn’t hold a grudge. She was the first person to make me cry out of frustration, exhaustion, fear and happiness, all at once. She was the one who made me realize that love can be both overwhelmingly simple and incredibly complex. She made the scariest thing I have ever done, the best thing I have ever done.

B might not remember a time when she had me all to herself. But, I always will.

 

Christmas 2015

Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays this year has been complicated by pregnancy brain and the overwhelming feeling that there is a lot to do and so little time to do it all before Baby #2 arrives. So, while most of you have probably snapped back to reality, I’m going to stay in the land of twinkly lights, sweets and Santa Claus for just a little bit longer with this post. Plus, B was especially into all things Christmas this year, and the photos are too cute not to share!

Chester and I were lucky to both be off from work for two weeks, which gave us a little extra time to do some festive things with B in the week leading up to Christmas.

There were cookies to make—and sprinkles to eat.

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We took a trip to Macy’s to do all a few of the traditional Philly Christmas activities, including a visit with Santa, a walk through the Dicken’s Village and a viewing of the light show and holiday window displays.

B could not take her eyes off of Santa when she first walked into the room. But, she wasn’t inclined to sit on his lap when it was time for the photo. Hence, for the second year in a row, it was a family portrait. I really should have anticipated this and done a better job with my hair.

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It was so warm on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that we put the air conditioning on. It was bizarre, but at least that meant that B still got to wear the adorable outfits that I had chosen with colder weather in mind.

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Trees were definitely her obsession this year. Ours was on a timer and we told her Santa came to light it up every night. When she would see the lights go on, she would say “Thank you, Santa!” It was adorable, obviously.

Santa stopped at Ni-Ni’s early, and B was excited to unwrap the gifts that he left there. As you can see, there was a musical theme going on.

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This was the first year that she was really into tearing the paper off of things!

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Kisses for Daddy!

After eating way too many cookies for dessert, it was time to head home and wait for Santa!

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Getting Santa’s cookies ready before bed. 

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Yay! Santa came!

When B woke up on Christmas morning, she knew something was up. We waited at the top of the stairs while Chester got a few last minute things in order and she kept saying “What’s down there?!” Her enthusiasm was contagious–I can’t remember the last time I was so excited on Christmas morning! The look on her face when she saw all of the presents under the tree and the leftover cookie crumbs from Santa’s snack was priceless.

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That guitar went everywhere with her for a couple of days.

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Yes, we wore matching gingerbread pajamas.

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Well, everyone but Tracy. They didn’t make them in her size.

B was very specific in her request for a blue Care Bear, so I as excited when I found the last one at Toys “R” Us. She looked at it for about two seconds before moving on.

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In my typical fashion, I over thought all of the gifts we picked out for B (will she enjoy this? Is this right for her age? Are regular blocks better than magnetic blocks). Turns out that I needed have worried so much. Her favorite thing that she received on Christmas morning ended up being a dollar store flashlight that was in her stocking. Oh, toddlers.

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Then, it was back to Ni-Ni’s for more food, presents and family time.

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There’s that guitar again.

After all of the festivity of those two days, we kept the rest of our holiday break pretty low key. We ventured out to the Please Touch Museum, Reading Terminal to see the holiday train display and a couple of after-Christmas sales to score some half-priced décor (which I enjoy even more than the half-priced candy after Halloween) But, other than that, we were mostly at home, playing with B’s new toys.

We rung in 2016 with take-out from DiBruno Brothers’ and a movie from On Demand, to ensure that we didn’t fall asleep before midnight. We are party animals, I know, but honestly, being at home is my favorite way to spend New Year’s Eve. Except, I would prefer real champagne to the disgusting sparkling grape drink that we had. Next year, for sure!

And that, friends, was how we spent our Christmas vacation.

Now, how long do you think I can go on eating cookies for breakfast and trying to figure out if it’s possible to fit the Mamaroo in the living room without dismantling the Christmas tree?

Christmas Magic

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The cookies are baked, presents are ready to go under the tree and the stockings are hung. Sure, the 70+ degree temperatures have it feeling more like Easter, but nevertheless, two of my favorite days of the year are finally here!

I will admit that I couldn’t muster up my usual enthusiasm for all of the preparations leading up to the holiday this year. At seven months pregnant, I am exhausted, cranky and uncomfortable 98 percent of the time. But, B has been a reminder that all of that “stuff” doesn’t really matter, anyway. To her, every little thing about this season has been amazing—even getting dressed up to pose for a photo with a gift box that is completely empty, apart from two LED tap lights stuck to the bottom (which is the story behind our Christmas card photo, above. I’m also reminded how lucky I am that I married someone so creative).

So, in the end, I realized that it doesn’t really matter that the gifts look like they were wrapped by a T-rex or that we never got around to doing half of the activities that I put on the Advent calendar. All she cares about are the sparkly ribbons and pulling the numbers off the twine, anyway.

All that to say, everything can be magical. Even the little things.

I hope that you have the merriest Christmas ever, and that you get to spend this time eating way too many cookies with the people who matter most to you in the world.

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The true miracle of this holiday season was getting both of our kids to pose for photos.

The World According to B

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When B was born, I bought a really cute baby book at Paper Source…and then never wrote a word in it. Okay, maybe I wrote a few words in it, but I quickly realized that there just didn’t seem to be enough lines in the book to record it all or capture the things that I really wanted to about her first days, weeks and months. Instead, I started using this space to share all of the details and photos from B’s first two years. It makes me laugh when I look back through the earlier years of this blog and contrast the content from that time with what I’m writing about now. My how things have changed!

Although I haven’t been sharing monthly updates about B since she turned two, I can assure you that she continues to be a true toddler. One of the things that I love most about her these days is that she says the most adorable things. She seems to pick up new words every day and she has quite the sense of humor and impeccable timing in deploying her favorite expressions.

Some of my favorites are:

Her many demands. The ones that we hear most frequently are:

  • “Read it”
  • “Watch it”—when she wants to look at something. We spend a lot of time “watching” the Christmas tree lately
  • “Hold it”—when she wants us to give her something, even if it’s too large to be held in her hand. If we aren’t watching the tree, she’s asking to hold it.
  • “Take a selfie”
  • “Daddy/mommy, listen!”—when she wants us to pay attention to her or a noise that she heard.
  • “Mommy, go potty!”—She knows that I leave the room when I have to go to the bathroom, so she’ll sometimes say this to shoo me away. Usually, it’s because she wants to play with Chester without me interrupting. Relatedly, there’s also “Mommy, go home,” which is what she says when my mom picks her up from my house in the morning and B doesn’t want me to follow them.

“I’m good!”—if you ask her if she wants to eat or do something and she doesn’t want to, she’ll say this. She definitely learned this one from me. She sometimes alternates this expression with “No nap/no Cheerios/no bath, etc. today!” if she is in a fiesty mood.

“Jesus Christ!”—My mom accepts full responsibility for this one. Sometimes, B uses this expression in it’s proper context, like when she drops something on the floor. Other times, she just says it a random, over and over again, in Target.

“Mommy/daddy, hold you”—She hasn’t mastered pronouns yet, so it actually means that she wants me to hold her. It’s so freaking cute.

“What did you do, penguin?”—I can’t quite figure out the orgins of this expression, but my mom has this wooden penguin that B likes to play with and she always asks him this question.

“Watch out, B!”—usually said when she is doing something she knows she isn’t supposed to be doing.

“It’s okay!”—She sometimes gets mildly freaked out by sirens and motorcycles, so we started saying this to her. Now, she says it to us and gives us a hug whenever there’s a loud noise.

“Sounds delicious!”—I particularly like when she uses this to describe combinations that do not sound at all delicious, such as “meatball water. Sounds delicious!”

“You found it!”—she is very proud of us when we give her one of her toys.

“Tracy’s awesome!”

“That’s silly!”

“Say what?!”—which she says with proper inflection, in situations where disbelief is called for.

“B’s happy!”

“Tell mommy/daddy/Ni-Ni”—We’ve been potty training her during the last few months (she is doing great! She can pretty much stay dry all day and is totally comfortable using her little potty. Next step: real toilets) and when she does her thing successfully, she wants us to tell everyone she knows about it. Sometimes, she is so excited that she even wants us to share the good news with inanimate objects, yelling “tell hat/coat/trees”

Incidentally, I took all of the posts from B’s first year and turned them into a book and am in the process of doing the same for her second year posts. So, B still will have an old-fashioned, printed baby book that we can refer to in case the Internet ever goes away. I am glad that I took the time to write all of this stuff down about B and I look forward to doing the same for Baby #2 in just a few short months.

On the Road: Hudson River Valley Fall Getaway

Although we love our little travel buddy, Chester and I decided that we were long overdue for an adults only vacation. After considering a few options within driving distance of Philly, we decided to head up to the Hudson River Valley for a long weekend. Having visited the area a few years ago, we knew that it would be an ideal setting for a relaxing fall getaway.

This time, we stayed at the adorable Buttermilk Falls Inn, located in Milton. If you were so inclined, you wouldn’t even have to venture off the property to get a taste of what the area has to offer. The 75-acre estate includes a spa, a farm-to-table-restaurant, walking trails and scenic views of the Hudson River.

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An assortment of some of the animals we met at the inn.  City people don’t know what to do around farm animals. Also, I need a llama for Christmas.

If you want to do some sightseeing, Milton is just about 20 minutes away from Hyde Park, which has a few different points of interest.

Our first stop was the Culinary Insitute of America. Current students lead public tours a few times a week, and it was pretty cool to get a glimpse into the kitchens and classrooms, where future chefs and bakers were hard at work. After the tour, we had lunch at The Bocuse, one of the student-run restaurants on-campus.

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From top left: Black truffle soup, apple butternut soup, seared scallops with truffle, potato and cauliflower, veal with braised onions, kale and foie gras butter and an assortment of desserts. The white coffee ice cream was made table side with liquid nitrogen!

On the whole, the food and service were above average, with the exception of Chester’s veal entree, which was completely over-salted. He sent it back to the kitchen, but the second dish did not improve much. The students are all still learning though, so I suppose some hiccups are to be expected!

After lunch, we took a tour of Springwood. Franklin D. Roosevelt was born and is buried there, and it was the place that he often said truly felt like home.

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Burial place of FDR, Eleanor and two of their dogs

Old homes/estates are always among my favorite sites to see when we travel; this site is remarkable not only for the material objects it contains, but also for the fact that some of the decisions that impacted the course of history were made here. The grounds also are home to FDR’s library and archives. Built under his direction, it was the first presidential library and also housed his private study where he conducted several of his fireside chats. Today, it contains more than 50 million items related to FDR and his wife Eleanor.

Continuing with the historic home theme, the next day, we visited the Vanderbilt house, one of the oldest Hudson River estates and one of the best examples of a Gilded Age mansion.The ostentatious furnishings were a definite contrast to the more rustic and reserved elements of FDR’s home.

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I wish that our visit had coincided with the peak of the fall foliage season, because I bet that makes the views of the Hudson even more spectacular.

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We ended our trip with dinner at Henry’s at the Farm, the restaurant at Buttermilk Falls. My recommendation would absolutely be the lobster risotto and Chester would tell you to get the 48 oz Tomahawk steak. It looked exactly like the side of meat that they put into Fred’s car at the drive-through movie theater during the Flintstone’s theme song. He ate the entire thing. I feel like that deserves a plaque on the wall or some other kind of tribute!

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Although I did feel a bit guilty to leave B, it was so nice to have some time to reconnect with Chester. Life has been so busy lately, and it’s hard to find time even for a few little moments together in the midst of it all. I didn’t realize how much I missed him! We slept in (until 8:30!), had adult conversations (only about 80% of which revolved around our current and future child), enjoyed several hot meals/cups of coffee without having to worry about toddler meltdowns and even went to an actual theater to see a movie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2). 

It was just like to good old days and I’m glad that we had this opportunity to take a breather, before things get even crazier with the arrival of Baby #2.

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(I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the world’s best Ni-Ni/mommy and the world’s best Ti-Ti/aunt for helping to make the weekend possible by letting B and Tracy, respectively, crash at their houses for a few days. You guys rock!)