Wednesday, July 18, 2012

brooksie boy: 10 month update!

I'm a few days late on Brooks' 10 month update. But, since I haven't done an update since he was 6 months..what's a few more days, right?

Well, since I haven't posted about Brooks in 4 months, I'd say he's changed quite a lot since then :)

-He's a professional crawler. He started at about 8.5 months. Matt and I went on a trip and he waited until the week we got back to start. Ever since then I can't keep up with him. I look away for a split second and he's gone to another room. The baby gate is getting lots of use these days.
-He still isn't fully pulling up. He's done it a couple of times on the bathtub because he can get a good grip. But other than that, he hasn't pulled up on sofas, the crib, etc. He sticks one leg way out and acts like he's going to try but never plants his foot under him and pushes up. So hopefully he's just taking his time with need to rush it right?
-He has 2 bottom teeth and his 2 top teeth are working their way in right now. So you can imagine the drool we have going on.

At 9 months, he was around 21 lbs. He is just slightly over 50th percentile. So still not the largest kid on the block..but definitely not the smallest. He does wear mostly 12 month clothes already though.

 Pardon the snot and drool. He had a little cold.


Brooksie Boy is a very fickle eater. One day, he wants everything in the pantry...and big boy style. The next day, he refuses to eat anything I offer him and when I resort to digging out a jar of baby food, he inhales it. Its so strange. But for the most part, he eats well. There's only a few things he doesn't like. He takes 3 bottles a day...6am, mid afternoon, and bedtime.

This boy likes his sleep. And doesn't do well when he doesn't get it. He still takes 2 naps a day, usually 10am and 2pm. He sleeps about 2 hours each time, sometimes longer. He goes down for the night between 7pm and 8pm. Some nights he'll decide he needs a little attention between 11pm and midnight. If he doesn't get too hysterical, we let him cry. But I can't lie, there are nights that one of us goes and gives him the paci and if he begs, we even rock him for a minute until he settles back down. He then sleeps until about 6am. I give him a bottle and he goes back to sleep until 8am or so.

This little guy is such a happy baby. Unless he's tired, hungry, or feeling bad, you don't hear much crying or fussing from him. He's usually very content playing with toys and chasing his brothers around the house. If they are in their room playing, he will search every room until he finds them. His little face lights up and his eyes get so big. He lets out an excited squeal and rushes in the room (on his hands and knees of course.)

One thing I wish we could get on video is his goat noise. Its not actually a laugh..but a noise he makes when he gets excited (if you are about to hand him food usually). It sounds like a goat...that's the only way I know to explain it. It is stinking hilarious. He could be a YouTube sensation.

 playing with his big brothers

 Hey, I'm cute!
 Oh wait, they are doing something funny over there...
I'm coming to join in on the fun!!
Matt and the big boys were playing football and he couldn't be left out!
I can't believe this guy will be 1 year old in 2 months!! That seems insane!! Hopefully I'll at least do a 1 year post!! I'm getting better at blogging so hopefully I can stay on top of it now. 

etsy shop update

Many of you may remember that we opened an Etsy shop last October to raise money for Brody's medical expenses. The shop really took off and we have raised quite a bit just through those sales over the last 9 months. We haven't posted any updates recently, but long story short, we had some changes in our insurance and it SEEMS as though we won't be paying as much out of pocket for Brody's expenses. So after having a couple of large garage sales that raised about $1500 a piece, plus the sales from the etsy shop, we decided we should put the fundraising on hold. We don't know what the future holds, or what our new insurance will cover in the future, but as of now, we feel we have a good amount set aside to pay for new braces, physical therapy, etc. (IF insurance doesn't cover, although they said they would). This has been such a huge burden lifted for us.  We always had faith that the Lord would provide, we just never imagined how much. He never ceases to amaze and remind us just how BIG He is! 

So, that being said, we were left with the dilemma of what to do about the Etsy shop. As long as money was coming in, we put it in his medical account because we would never want to use that money for personal use while the shop claimed it was for medical expenses. And we could never have TOO much in there. This is a lifelong disease...even if we don't need it all immediately, a few years down the road we may. Or it may all be gone within a year. We just don't know. But at the same time, we just didn't feel right about continuing to sell design pieces at this time claiming the money was for Brody's expenses. A while from now, that may change. But for now, we decided to change things up. 

So we talked about what we should do..take it down all together? Or change the purpose? We went with the latter :) Designing in Photoshop has been something I've loved to do since college. My emphasis in my major was publication and design so it has been a part of me for 10 years. Its one of my stress relievers. I can sit at my computer and whip out a birthday invitation or a blog header and totally relax. I know, its weird. It just takes my mind off of housework, bills, etc. Its something I really enjoy doing. So, we decided that we would put my talents to use and keep the etsy shop open. It provides a way for me to supplement our income or bring in money that we can use to bless others, without leaving our kids or putting any extra work on me really. (Remember, its fun for me!) 

So I'm excited about our new revamped shop! We had to change the name so we went with what else, but You, Me & the Tots Design Shop. I'm hoping to add many more pieces soon! I would love to be able to offer invitations, announcements, etc as well but we have to take it one step at a time. I can't get too caught up in the excitement and neglect my family :) 

One other cool thing...if you haven't visited the blog recently, you may not have seen the small facelift. So check it out. And if you want to share our etsy shop with your friends, scroll down on the right sidebar and copy the code to add the shop button to your blog! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Carson!!!

I can't believe our Carson is 3. Well, actually I can. He talks like he's way older than he is, and he has been fitting into 3T-4T clothes for a while. So honestly, he's seemed 3 for a long time. But actually admitting that he's 3 is a different story. He has been ready for 3 for a while. He was constantly asking us "When I'm 3, can I do _________ like Brody?" Or, "When I'm 3, then I will like ______." (some sort of food that he doesn't like)

Carson Jace, we absolutely adore you sweet boy. You are hilarious, sweet, cuddly, and can be so considerate of others. We love watching you play with both of your try to be a big boy to play with Brody, and then turn on your funny baby voice to talk to Brooks. Your huge animated eyes melt this mama's heart...and sometimes when I'm supposed to be disciplining you. 

Favorite things: You love just about ALL food, super heroes, movies, and books. You LOVE playing baseball with Daddy and are really starting to like soccer as well. 

Dislikes: Jelly, ponatoes (tomatoes), naps, thunder and bugs.
We love you so much Car-baby (I guess I can't call you that any more ). You are so precious and bring us so much joy! We hope you feel super special today!!

He's known for a while that he wanted a Batman Birthday Party. Fortunately, there happens to be a Batman movie being release soon so every aisle at Target is loaded with Batman themed party decor, toys, etc. I'm not a party kit person at all...I prefer handmade with a few store bought pieces thrown in. So I steered clear of the comic book plates, cups, etc and went with a general color scheme and printed my own Batman symbols and decor. I love how the party turned out and I think Carson had a blast!! I tried to focus more on fun activities for the kids than table decor this year and I think it was a wise choice!!

 We turned our front entry into the Batcave. As our guests entered the front door, they walked into a dark cave with only a small opening into the living room. We created a Batman symbol to shine through the window at the top of our door which shown on the floor. It turned out so cool!

Outside of the Batcave. This created a cool place for the kids to go into and play. And yes, its still up and will be for a while since it took a while to create.

 Cupcake tree.

 Ignore my hideous, rushed handwriting. I forgot to make the food labels so they didn't turn out quite like I envisioned.

Party favors...Batman cups filled with just about every Batman themed favor you could find..pencils, erasers, tattoos, candy, etc.

Food table. I had the teal serving pieces and picked up the black and yellow buckets in the $1 spot at Target, of course.
 Funfetti Dip was a hit...i heart Pinterest. We served it with animal crackers, pretzel sticks and graham crackers. A lot of folks put it on the apples and grapes and said that was great as well.

 On the front door.
 Vaporize a Villain..Pictures of villains were tacked to the fence and the super heros used water guns and grenades to "vaporize" them.
Villains were hidden all over the yard (as seen below) and whoever found the most was given a prize.

 I don't have a photo of this game because it was over so quickly. We put a piece of candy in balloons and blew them up. They had to pop all the balloons by stomping, sitting, etc to get the prize out. This was probably a fave among the kiddos! Make sure you have lots of balloons! We used 30 and it was over in seconds.
 Bubble station (honestly, our guests weren't interested)

 The birthday boy!!
 Mr. Wade making it interesting

 The best shot we could get with Carson and his guests.
 My mom convinced me to add these balloons to the party favors and boy am I glad she did! The kids LOVED these! It started raining right at the end of the party so they were able to keep the fun going indoors.

And I just had to include this big 10 month old cutie!! He needs his own post!!
Carson told us it was the best party...and that's all that matters! He had a blast! We love celebrating him so much that we are turning this 3rd birthday into a weekend long event. Daddy took him to see Ice Age on Friday and then he had his party on Saturday. Today we went to Chick Fil A with friends and are headed to dinner and then games at Chuck E Cheese with Trent and Dre Drea tonight. He might be getting a little spoiled by all this special treatment :) We love you Carson Jace!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

chore chart solution

I posted last week about looking for the best chore system for the boys. After look into many ideas, and considering what would work best for our family, I decided on a simple check-off system. Although so many were very tempting to try to implement, I felt that with them being 3 and 4.5, we would start with simple. Here's what I came up with....

I haven't had then laminated yet, so they aren't hanging. Therefore I have no photos so you can at least see the digital version. Just a simple 8.5x11 designed in photoshop. The boys are really into Super Heros right now, and even call themselves Super Helpers when they are helping out. So it took no time to come up with a theme for the header. I chose to include images since the boys can't read yet. I'll explain what all the pictures mean and knowing them, I'll think they'll get the hang of it real quick. We'll laminate, hang on the fridge, and have the boys check off as they complete tasks. Tasks included are being kind to each other (one that we are working on daily), cleaning their room, cleaning their toys from the living room, Mom's Choice (I get to choose a job for them), Being Kind to Brooks, Brushing Teeth at night, and then the Super Help Bonus. This is my fave. This is where I will give them a check for doing something to help out with out being asked. Just out of their desire to help out. They do this a lot..usually more than if we tell them to do something. I'm excited to get these up next week and let the boys start using them. We've been talking about their new chore charts and they seem excited. We'll see if the enthusiasm remains...

I've also created some blank and generic charts if any of you have any super helpers of your own. They don't include a name at the top. One includes the images and the other is completely blank for you to fill in your own tasks.
 To download the files, just right click. They should save at full size. If not, let me know and I can send them to you. I'm sure there's a fancy way to offer downloadable files, but I haven't had time to research it. (If anyone knows, feel free to let me know!)

We are preparing for a super helper's big birthday this weekend so we're putting the chore charts off until next week. But I can't wait to get them started!!

Review: Bissell Lift-Off Deep Cleaning System

This may look a little strange for this blog, but I couldn't help raving about this product. Our best pals recently loaned us their Bissell Carpet Cleaner to try out on our living room while they are on vacation. They were so pleased with how clean it got their carpets and couches that I couldn't resist giving it a try. With 3 little boys, our carpets are in constant need of cleaning and spot treating. They had recently gotten to their worst point with obvious stains right in the center of the living room. We had even discussed putting a rug down, but decided it wouldn't look all that great.

So, we borrowed the Bissell. The Bissell Lift-Off to be exact. This machine far exceeded my expectations. When Andrea told me how well it did on her carpets, I believed her, but also knew that she probably didn't have the spills, spitup (yes, there were some spots that we didn't realize we missed at times), and ground in stains that we had. So I expected in general for the carpets to look cleaner, but to ultimately still see the faint remnants of the stains. Holy cow, was I wrong!! Every stain is gone. No trace of spilled juice, ground in dirt, baby spitup, anything. Its all gone. I need to emphasize that the carpet in our home could be 10+ years they don't look brand new. There are worn spots, etc..but they are clean. I only did the living room..and am considering going to buy more cleaning solution to do the entire house this week. Our sweet friends were nice enough to let us have the sample that came with the machine to try it out.

Another neat feature of this machine is the lift-off feature. As shown in the picture, you can lift off the middle portion and clean anything in your home...sofas and chairs, stairs, etc. I didn't use this part so I can't comment on it, but if it cleans as well as the whole unit, I'm sure it does great! And the entire process was so simple...
-Add water and solution.
-Squeeze handle and move forwards then backwards once. Then you release the handle and it keeps scrubbing while vacuuming up the water and soap. So you can go back and forth as many times as you like. The more you vacuum, the more water it soaks up and the faster it dries. Then move on to the next line.
-Dump the water from the tank when it gets to the fill line. This water is NASTY! It's so gross to see how dirty the carpet was...but kind of rewarding to see your work paying off. I went over the dirtiest spots twice, and the water was gross both times. I bet I could do the room again today and still get as much dirty water. I probably emptied the dirty tank, and refilled the clean water with solution tank 7 times while cleaning the living room.It took me about an hour to do our living room.

Comparison: This past fall we had a door to door vacuum salesman come and offer to do a free carpet cleaning while we listened to his sales pitch. We needed a cleaning so why not get it for free? We knew we weren't going to buy it but didn't mind spending an hour or so listening in order to get a free cleaning. (Long story but the guy stayed from 6:45pm until almost was insane!) His machine was a well-known high end vacuum that you can only buy from a salesman. It was impressive. Large and powerful, a lot of neat features, and sucked up mounds of skin cells from my mattress. I wanted it just for that feature. So as far as a vacuum However, I was not impressed with the shampoo feature. Granted, he was doing a demo and may have not done that thorough of a job, but then again, he was trying to sell it so he should have done the best job possible. But when it had dried the next morning, it didn't look considerably different than before. So if I were comparing the $2500 machine to the Bissell, I choose the Bissell for shampooing.

So, this was just my little plug for the Bissell Lift-Off System. If anyone is interested in purchasing a home carpet cleaner, I highly recommend this one. If you like to have your carpets cleaned often, its much more cost effective than paying a professional. You can buy them at Walmart, Target, etc.

Coming up of my cute kids and my chore chart solution!

*I was not compensated for this review. I posted it on my own in order to share a great product with my friends and family.*

Monday, July 2, 2012

Our getaway to NYC and Boston!!

At the beginning of June, Matt and I were able to take a last minute trip to Boston and New York City. And when I say last minute, I mean we decided to go and went the next week. We were given buddy passes to fly anywhere Southwest Airlines flies FOR FREE! And with Matt's mom's Marriott discount, we were able to go on a super cool trip for super cheap! So we jumped at the chance, of course. Matt has wanted to go to NYC forever. Every time we plan a trip, we look into it, but its always just so expensive. So with all the deals we were getting, there was no doubt that would be our destination. I've always wanted to visit Boston, and since we didn't know when we'd get the chance to head to the Northeast again, we tacked on a couple of days in Boston. Just warning you...there are like 40 pictures in this post. I tried to narrow it down (we took 750 pics on the trip) but I plan to make Blurb books from our blog, so I really wanted to put all my faves in. 

June 7-June 9 Boston, Ma
We spent the night of June 6 with Brent and Leigh Ann in Houston so we could be at the airport by 4:30am. With buddy passes, you just have to hope they have room for you on flights. So we had to be there SUPER early to get on the standby list. Fortunately, we made it on the first flight out of Houston, and connected in St. Louis. Unfortunately, in St. Louis we weren't able to make the flight out we wanted and left later in the afternoon. But we eventually landed in Boston about 5:30pm. 

A friend of mine from high school is one of the starting pitchers for the Red Sox and just happened to be pitching our first night there. He got us tickets for Thursday night when he pitched, as well as Friday night. Our seats were right behind home plate with all of the players family. Seats behind home Fenway Park. Can you imagine how happy my husband was? I don't think you can :)

Clay pitched a complete game shut out that night. Guess we were good luck :)
In our seats. Wish we could have gotten good shots with Fenway in the background but when you ask strangers to snap photos, you take what you can get.
After the game we met up with Clay and his super sweet wife, Lindsay. They offered us passes to go on to the field during batting practice the next day before the game. Although it would cut into our "tourism" time in Boston, there was no way I could refuse and let my husband miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

On Friday we headed out onto the Freedom Trail. This starts in the Boston Common, and takes you all around Boston to all the historical and significant spots. There are maps, but you don't even need one because there is a red brick path built into the city that you can follow and not miss a thing. I will be the first to admit that I'm not real big on history. However, Boston is an exception. To see where our country was basically founded and key decisions were made that shaped the United States was pretty surreal. And the town has made sure that every piece of history has been maintained and restored to preserve its history. It really was pretty cool.
The Boston Common is a beautiful park with paths, benches, ponds and beautiful trees. I wish I could tell you the historical significance, but there was A LOT of history in one this one has slipped my mind. It was so serene here..if we wouldn't have had so much to see in just one day, I would have loved to stay a while and have a picnic.
There were a lot of squirrels in the park, one of which came right up to Matt. I guess there isn't much hunting in Boston :)
One of the first stops on the trail was the cemetery where many famous men were buried. In case you've forgotten US History, Paul Revere was the guy who rode through Boston on a horse yelling "The British are coming! The British are coming!" I didn't include them in this post, but we also have photos of his home and the church where he hung his lantern which was a signal as well. Also buried here were John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin's parents, and I think a couple of other significant people I'm forgetting.

So many of the rodes in Boston are still cobblestone. I absolutely loved the character this brought to the town. However, it was very hard to walk on!
One of the very few good pictures of us. Some of the Boston skyline behind us.

The best food of our trip was from Boston. We preferred it over NYC. For lunch we ate in the Italian Markets district. There were Italian restaurants and delis on every corner. We had wonderful pizza and a meatball sub. Then after, we stopped at Modern Pastry for a cannoli. You can't come to Boston and not get a cannoli. I will also say that in this part of town is where I saw the "legit Bostonians." The thick accent just made my day. I giggled every time I heard it.
Just a glimpse of the architecture in the North End of Boston.

An old fire station that is still operating. I love how its just built in to the connecting buildings.
The Bunker Hill Monument. I don't remember exactly what the Battle of Bunker Hill was all about, but I know it was important. You could climb to the top of the monument and see all of Boston but we chose not to do that. 
Other neat things we saw but I didn't include photos of were the site of the Boston Massacre, Boston Garden (home of the Boston Celtics), the Charlestown Bridge, Quincy Market, Haymarket Square, and Fanueil Hall. Those last three are all markets that were so neat. Everywhere you turned there were vendors selling fresh produce, food, handmade items, etc. You could spend a whole day there.
Before we headed inside to batting practice.
It was about to rain so my hair is a little poofy. Unfortunately, there was no batting practice because of the rain. But there were a few players throwing and warming up over to our right. We have close up shots of them but I didn't feel the need to include those here haha. We weren't really there to see famous people. Fenway was much more impressive. 
The oldest baseball stadium in the United States. We are going to blow this up to hand in the boys' room.
I feel like Boston was a blur. But after looking back on all the photos, I'd have to say that Boston was my favorite part of the trip. The attention to detail in all of the architecture...the character of the town...I could totally live there. I always say that when we go to cool places. But I totally could. Its one of those places that feels smaller than it is. You could raise a family on the edge of town and still be close to everything. But, we couldn't stay there forever and on Saturday morning we hopped on a train and rode down to NYC!!

June 9-June 12 New York, NY
Our first hotel in NYC (yes we had 2) was right around the corner from NBC studios and Radio City Music hall. I soo wanted to see a show in this iconic theater. I was so excited when the concierge at our hotel was able to get us tickets for Saturday night to see Cirque du Soleil at Radio City!! 
Time Square after the show
Don't you just love when strangers offer to take your picture? I just had to include this one...
Sunday morning we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on our way to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for church. It was a long walk..and hot. But we got some great photos :)
The Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building in the background.
After church, we hopped on the subway and headed to lower Manhattan to see the financial district, 9/11 Memorial and Battery Park. Pictured above is the federal reserve. I don't know what it does, but was just impressed with the building.
1 World Trade Center
This is the first of the new World Trade Center buildings. It is not yet complete and is already the tallest building in the NYC skyline. 
The 9/11 Memorial was beautiful. Two large pools (one for each building) with cascading water, the names of the fallen engraved along the sides. Someone had placed this US flag in one of the names. We took a lot of photos, but for some reason none of them seemed to grab my attention as much as these two.
After leaving the memorial we visited St. Paul's chapel. This chapel is right outside the memorial and was right below the two towers. I had read about this chapel in a Karen Kingsbury novel and knew we had to visit. This was where all the fireman and policeman found rest, food, and encouragement for 9 months straight after the attacks. 24 hours a day this church provided beds, food, prayer, whatever the rescue and recovery workers needed. In addition, when family members sent photos and letters, looking for lost loved ones, the church would post them on the walls. Today there is memorabilia from those 9 months. Letters from children to their daddies who died. Photos of those who gave their lives. We didn't take photos. It was too emotional. I didn't tear up at the memorial...but in here, it was very hard to hold in the tears. Another neat thing about this was completely untouched when the buildings fell. Everything around it was in ruin and it stood firm.

Just a cool piece of architecture in lower Manhattan. We then headed to Little Italy to eat (and were not impressed with our restaurant choice) before heading back to the East Side to our hotel.
On Monday morning we went to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center). This is the same as the Empire State Building but without the lines. And you get the ESB in your photos.

Matty trying to find Yankee Stadium.

We then moved to our new hotel right in the middle of Time Square. We wanted to spend one night here to see what it was like to be in the middle of all the action.

Monday afternoon we headed to Central Park. This place is ridiculously huge. We spent a little while walking around, watching some locals play softball, and enjoying some "green" among all the concrete.
Anyone recognize this? Its under the well-known bridge in Central Park that overlooks a big fountain and pond. In the movie Ransom its where the boy gets kidnapped.
After leaving Central Park we walked around the Upper East Side to get away from the touristy stuff, and see some of the nice apartments you see on movies. We then headed to Grand Central Station and then back to Time Square.
Grand Central and the Chrysler Building
The view from our hotel room

What a great spot to be on New Year's Eve for the ball drop!

There are lots of things we did and saw that aren't pictured...trying to get on the Today show, FAO Schwartz, The GIANT Lego and Nintendo Stores and much more. We also have tons of great photos on our phones that we'll have to add soon.
On Tuesday morning we headed to the airport to head home. To make a long story short...a storm blew in and the entire Northeast was covered in storms. We ended up taking a bus from Laguardia to Newark and spending the ENTIRE day in the airport, watching the time of our flight to Houston get bumped back later and later. And we weren't even guaranteed to be on that flight! I was sure we were going to be spending the night in the airport. But, the Lord worked it all out and we made it to Houston about 10pm.

Matt and I had a wonderful time just getting away together. It wasn't necessarily a relaxing trip...we saw a lot of things in a short amount of time. But it was a blast getting to spend that time together. Hopefully we can plan another trip soon! Thank you Matty for taking me away with you!!