Monday, January 30, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 29th

Sunday:  Italian Subs (I have meats leftover from the Stromboli I made that need to be used up!) with Roasted Cauliflower

Monday:  Tortellini-Sausage Soup with Focaccia Sticks for dunking

Tuesday:  Chicken Alfredo Bake with Egg Noodles and Roasted Broccoli

Wednesday:  Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos with Salad

Thursday:  Lentil Tacos with Queso Blanco Dip

Friday:  Tomato Alfredo Pizza

Saturday:  Leftovers/Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Friday, January 27, 2012

(Nearly) 23 Months!

Jack will be 23-months-old tomorrow.

How is my baby on the edge of being 2 years old already?!  I should be used to the way time flies at this point since I've been trying to keep up with it for nearly 2 years now, but really?  It continues to baffle me!  There's some sort of breakdown in the space-time continuum once you have kids.  Plenty of people will tell you how quickly your child's babyhood will pass you by, but what they fail to mention is how 24-hour increments just fly by at warp speed!  The same 8 hours that used to draaaaaaaaggg on when I was sitting at a desk all day are gone in a blink now that I'm chasing a toddler around at home!

What's nearly-two-year-old Jack up to?

Within the last few weeks to a month Jack's vocabulary has exploded!  I think this stage of development is one of my favorites mostly due to his rapidly expanding vocabulary.  It never gets old hearing him discover a new word.

Prior to a month or so ago Jack's vocabulary was lacking.  He had a few core words that he used a lot, but his speaking skills seemed to be kind of stagnant.  Now, his passive-verbal skills were growing by leaps and bounds.  He understood EVERYTHING, he was just kind of quiet on his end.  But now his speaking skills have officially begun to catch up with his passive understanding.  He discovers at least one new word or sound everyday and it's tons of fun!

A few of his favorite words:

Belle Belle
Car (oh man, this one should really top the list.  I hear this all. day. long.)
Eggies (Eggs)
Blueberries (still his favorite food, he's able to say this with impressive clarity)
No (a favorite of toddler's everywhere :-/ )
Bus (one of his favorite vehicles to play with)
Grapies (Grapes)
On (side note: he's starting to get really good with using off and on properly relating to the lights mostly because he likes to be the one to turn them off and on :) )

So far no phrases/sentences, but definitely lots of new words.  He's to the point now where he'll at least try to repeat just about anything you prompt him to say.

A few new(er) words that have been getting a lot of play lately:

'Nana (Banana)
Moomb! (Boom!)
Bapple (Apple)

And random numbers and letters.  He seem to particularly like "E", and T, and the number 8.  I feel like Sesame Street: today's Jack update is brought to you by the letter's E and T and the number 8!  :)

His favorite topic is cars.  He talks about cars all day long.  We have no idea what he's actually saying, but it's definitely his favorite topic of discussion.  Often throughout the day we will hear: (unintelligible toddler babble) car.  (more babble) car (babble).  Caaaarrrr ::points to toy car or outside where he sees a car or wants to see a car::  It's really cute.

One funny thing is we can't get him to say truck.  If you ask him where his truck is, or to get his truck, etc. he'll go get it right away, but he will only refer to trucks as cars.  It's so strange considering how many words he wants to try out right now that he won't attempt truck and the term is used often in this house will all the vehicles lying around to play with!

Always a truck nearby

Anything with wheels are his favorite things to play with.  Right now, he seems to have three favorites out of his collection:  A firetruck Santa brought for Christmas, a little school bus that he got from family for Christmas, and the little pickup truck and trailer that my dad and brother brought home for him last year from a trip they took.  He spends all day pushing these around and lining them up along with all his other vehicles.  He loves to watch the wheels move and will lay down on the ground and cock his head to the side to watch as the wheels roll as he moves the vehicles back and forth.

Another favorite game is playing Ball in the Hall with DaDa.  Jack will say "ball" over and over until Mark complies with heading to the hallway to kick the ball back and forth.  If that doesn't work he'll just grab on to Mark's finger and drag him to the designated space.  Sometimes a nearly 2-year-old just has to take things into his own hands!

Jack has also discovered TV.  Mark was off work quite a bit around the holidays and he introduced Jack to a few different movies that were being shown on TV - Up, Cars, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2.  Jack LOVED watching these movies.  Of course he doesn't have the attention span to sit and watch a whole movie or anything, but he really likes when we turn them on.

Mark definitely spoiled him with TV during his holiday break and I've had to reign it in since!  For the holidays Jack got Toy Story and Cars 2 on DVD.  Toy Story is definitely his favorite and he asks to watch "Buzz" all the time.  I can't believe how attached he is to this movie and how quickly it happened.  Usually Mark will turn Toy Story on and let him watch a little bit of it while I'm making dinner.  We quickly learned he's not able to watch his movies after dinner because then he's far too wound up to go to bed.

Watching some music videos in the morning

After his naptime I will usually turn Sesame Street on while we're waiting for DaDa to come home.  Jack still likes Elmo as well.  He also seems to like the (super boring, to me) shows that PBS has on in the mornings/early afternoon like Barney, Calliou, Angelina Ballerina, and Cat in the Hat.  I usually turn on whatever show is on after he has his lunch/before naptime.  These shows don't seem to wind him up the way Toy Story does.  He doesn't sit and watch these for any length of time, but he does periodically stop to check in with the shows while he's playing and he loves anytime there is music happening.  He cracks me up by singing "Go Go Go Go" along with the song from the Cat in the Hat. 

Eating.  Oh, eating.  This continues to be our biggest struggle.  I try my hardest not to let Jack know that I worry about it because I do not want this to be a power struggle.  I remind myself often that all I can do is present reasonable food choices to him and then it's up to him what to eat and how much, but it's SO hard not to worry about those choices!  Some days his eating is definitely better than others.  I try to look at his intake over several days to a week because I know it's a lot to expect at this age that he'll eat a balanced meal 3 times a day, every day. 

Eating with his Elmos on!

We had a window of 2 weeks up until about a week ago where his eating was MUCH improved.  I really thought we had reached the light at the end of the tunnel!  Whereas before he wouldn't even attempt new things, he was trying all sorts of new items and liking them!  Those two weeks were such a gift for me because I didn't have to worry about what he was/was not eating and if he was going to have to live off the same 10 items for the rest of his life.  And then this week hit and not only has he clamped down on what he'll eat again, but he's back to throwing food, which hasn't been an issue for months now.  *sigh*  One step forward, two steps back.

The aftermath of Jack's meals lately.  And also muddy paw prints courtesy of ankle-deep (do dogs have ankles?) mud in our backyard.  Yuck.

And of course liking something one day certainly doesn't guarantee he'll like it tomorrow!  The things we can usually count on him eating is pretty limited, but thankfully he at least likes a few things from every food category so I feel like even though he's not eating a wide variety of things, his diet is pretty balanced, especially for a kid his age because I know that the pickiness is pretty normal.  I still try though.  Every night I try to get him to eat what we have and present him with a variety of choices.  One day my efforts had better pay off!

Also related to the food front we finally weaned him off the bottle.  We did this... right around 22 months.  Obviously we held off on this for a while.  I think I'll do a separate post on this whole process, but it's... going.  We're still in transition 3 weeks or so later.  In hindsight I don't know if it was the right thing to do at this time, but it's done now.  Since we've taken away the bottle he refuses to drink any milk despite our efforts.  He does drink water from his sippy cup (and has for a long time), but he won't take any milk.  Even though I'd be much happier if he did, I'm not overly worried about it as he does eat plenty of dairy products otherwise.  This whole situation is still a work in progress.

And sometimes Elmo needs a drink too.

Because of the lack of bottle situation his sleep schedule is kind of all over the place.  It takes longer (sometimes a lot longer) for him to go to sleep at night and while at this point some nights are fairly painless, there are nights where bedtime is a long, drawn out struggle and late to bed = late to wake up = late to nap and really his schedule is just really inconsistent right now.  Once he IS down, he consistently sleeps about 12 hours, or so.  He still takes an afternoon nap and sleeps probably 3 hours on average.  He's a good sleeper, once he's down :)

What else?

He finally moved up to the largest size on his one-size diapers.  I think most kids are on the largest rise before now, but Jack has a tiny hiney and he's never had large thighs.  Those two things combined left him on the mid-rise setting for a very long time!  That's good though because I feel confident that his diapers will definitely fit up through potty training and I know that sometimes kids outgrow the one-size diapers too soon.

Thankfully, we don't have much to report on the tantrum front.  Yes, Jack will get frustrated and make a show of very dramatically falling limply to the floor/crying/hitting, but he very, VERY quickly realizes when it's not getting a reaction and ends it.  Usually his "tantrums" last less than a minute.  Just a very dramatic show to try to get some attention.  Depending on the situation I will first try to acknowledge the situation to see if it helps and then employ the "ignore" tactic.

For example, if he's upset because he doesn't want to go to bed I will say something like, "I understand that you're having fun and want to continue playing, but it's naptime now.  We will come back out to play with your toys after you have rested!".  If he's just being totally randomly, unreasonable it's time to ignore it.  So far, "validating" his feelings hasn't seemed to matter a fig, but I do think it's a good habit to get into.  I'd like to make it a point to try to communicate to him that his feelings are okay, but his actions are not.   Who knows if that point will ever get across, but I try.  This whole parenting thing is really hard.  It would be SO much easier if there were "right" answers to everything. 

We haven't started any form of time out/punishments yet for undesirable behaviors (hello, hitting and throwing things!).  I don't know when/if we will start using something like this, but I feel like he was definitely too young before now.  I'm still not sure if it's the right time for it yet, but we'll see and address situations as they arise.  He can definitely exhibit some naughty behaviors and the whole discipline issue scares me (see above: no one right answer, parenting is hard).

Life right now is filled with lots of giggles, fast-moving toddler legs, and new discoveries!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Savage Awakens

I found this bare-chested savage bouncing around in Jack's bed post-nap.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Taming the Toys

Today I traded valuable time during Jack's nap for a less cluttered family room. 

I previously mentioned that the next big project for our house would be clearing out the office in order to turn it into a playroom for Jack and his ever-growing collection of toys.  Before Christmas we had all of his toys strategically tucked around our family room.  A ride-on firetruck next to the chair, a basket of long-outgrown baby toys and a pile of random things on the other.  Another riding toy, a few balls, and a Little People farm set tucked next to the TV.  And so it went until every out of the way space was filled with toys.

Then came the holidays. 

Jack must have been a very good boy this year because our very generous families gifted him with plenty of new big boy toys to entertain himself over this long Winter.  And suddenly, our strategically tucked away toys started slowly creeping towards the center of the room until it felt like the family room was NEVER picked up. 

We do not have a large house and our family room is our only living area.  It's where Jack plays.  It's where we spend our days.  It's where Mark and I unwind and watch TV after Jack's tucked into bed for the night.  And although I don't mind tripping over toys during the day (hey, a toddler lives here, it's going to look like it!)  I do want our adult time in the evening to be free of the clutter that I've spent all day looking at, tripping over, and playing with alongside our little boy!

Eventually I got so tired of looking at the toys that were completely invading over our family space that I was motivated into action.  We spent the last two weekends working on clearing out the office (again, see: toddler lives here, it's taken us much longer to complete this reorganization project than it would have in the Land Before Baby!) and we've pared things down, and found places to tuck the things that were stored in there, and we are mostly finished with clearing it out.  We have a few boxes to move and we still have to get the desk out of there so we can replace it with a yet-to-be-acquired toy box, but we've made enough progress to allow me to move the bulk of his toys into his new playroom. 

So naptime today was spent sorting through toys and boxing up what he's outgrown.  I really disliked this task.  First, it was just not fun.  I should have taken a picture mid-toy sort.  My family room was laughable.  It was a big task because I've put off doing it all this time so we had baby toys up to the new items Jack got for the holidays.  I had to sort everything and also make sure that I matched all the little blocks/balls/pieces with the right toys so that I didn't pack anything up without all of its parts.  Then I moved the couch and the chair to make sure I got all the little pieces out of hiding and vacuumed behind/underneath while I was at it. 

But second, it was just another sad reality check.  One that I didn't need with my little boy's 2nd birthday already looming over us.  This is the first time I've had to pack up outgrown toys and I had to say goodbye to the little baby toys that Jack first grasped with his little baby fist.  His first favorites.  I remember sitting on the floor and playing with at my 6-month-old baby with these things like it was yesterday!  How has the time passed so quickly?!  I do not like it.  I want to pause time.  I don't want to admit that my baby is getting so big, so fast!

Ultimately I ended up with a large storage bin filled with all his cast-off toys.  I also packed up his music table and another decent-sized toy and just by doing that it really freed up some space!  But then I moved most of his things to the bins we designated in the office and WOW!  We have a family room! 

I'm just giddy with excitement about getting some space back and his toys all having a place again.  Hopefully we will finish up the remaining tasks in the office playroom this weekend.  I'll post some pics once we get everything accomplished!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 22nd

Sunday:  Breakfast for Dinner - French Toast and Bacon

Monday:  Panini with Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday:  Creamy White Chicken Chili (CrockPot) with Corn Bread

Wednesday:  Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake

Thursday:  Creamy Chicken with Black Beans and Corn (CrockPot) over Cilantro-Lime Rice

Friday:  Stromboli

Saturday:  Leftovers/Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Monday, January 16, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 15th

Sunday:  Homemade Chicken and Noodles over Mashed Potatoes

Monday:  Out for my sister's birthday!

Tuesday:  Mongolian Beef (with mushrooms and broccoli added) with Rice and Baked Crab Rangoon

Wednesday:  BW3-inspired Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps with Ranch Potato Wedges

Thursday:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Bread

Friday:  Homemade Pizza

Saturday:  Leftovers/out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stephanie: 1, Universe: 1

2012 was poised to begin with a bang for me.

The very first week of 2012 I had 3 hearings scheduled, a play date to be hosted, and 3 days prior to the new year my car, which had recently had work done, without warning nearly stranded me.

Amazingly, these things all took care of themselves.

The car that nearly stranded me held it together long enough so that I could make it home without having it towed.  Further, I managed to make it 25 miles away to my parents' house the following day so that my dad was able to fix the problem with a $4 part.  Yes, FOUR DOLLARS.  I was ecstatic considering the way the car was acting it seemed like a lot more than a $4 issue!  After replacing that part, my car was running perfectly again.  Win!

I had hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Tuesday's hearing was rescheduled.  Following a 10 minute phone call with my client, Wednesday's hearing was cancelled as they decided to withdraw their appeal.  Then, I got notice that Thursday's hearing had also been withdrawn, this time by the opposing party.  Not only did my calendar open up, but I got to bill full price for 2/3 cases.  WIN!

My calendar opening up led to me having much more time than I had previously anticipated to clean and prepare for our play date, which went off without a hitch.  More winning!

I completed the first week of 2012 feeling quite smug and hoping this was a sign that this year was going to be great!

Not so fast.

The second week of 2012 dawned with my car crapping out again.  AGAIN.  I honestly don't know if it's coincidental or related to the previous issue.  All I know is one minute it was driving fine (again) and the next, I was pulling over to the side of the road (again).  Luckily, after re-starting, things seemed to have improved and I was again headed out to my parents' house and made it the rest of the way without issue.  I arrived, let the car idle - fine.  Shut it off.  Turned it on again - fine, let it idle for a bit - fine.  Maybe it was a fluke?  Maybe?  (Not likely.)  My dad later turned it on and said he wasn't even able to keep it running at all at that point and had no idea what the problem was.  FABULOUS.  Somehow, I have a feeling this is not going to be a $4 fix.  I'd love to be proven wrong on that point though.

Same day: our sometimes working, sometimes not water heater chose to not work (again).

Next day: I can't find a special key that my dad gave me to make a copy of my car key with.  It's specific to my car and apparently not cheap to replace.  I SWEAR I knew right where that thing was.  Apparently not.

Monday dawned with a plumber visiting our house to (again) take a look at our (again) non-functional water heater. 

A note about this very frustrating situation: our water heater was put in as part of the purchase agreement when we bought our house 5 1/2 years ago.  It's only 5 1/2 years old and mostly still under warranty.  The last year has found us with an uncooperative water heater, which apparently only works when it feels like it. 

We've had to do far more work on it than a 5 1/2 year old water heater deserves.  The good part of that is the parts have all been under warranty.  The bad part is the labor is not.  Labor is expensive. 

In the last 6 months - 1 year we have sunk at least $500 (and multiple headaches) into this lovely piece of equipment.  Since then it works most of the time.  Until it doesn't.  And I can't tell you, after the number of service people we have had in our house, and the hundreds of dollars we've paid to have it fixed, how immeasurably frustrating it is to turn on the faucet only to find that we don't have hot water (again).  No one can tell us why it will go from a 6 month stint of zero issues to the pilot light not being able to stay lit after a single cycle.  So we spent two (more) days of lighting the darn pilot light 30 minutes prior to needing hot water (again).  ::bang head:: ::bang head:: ::bang head::

SO Mr. Plumber comes for another visit.  He re-lights the pilot light, he watches, he turns on the faucet, he runs some hot water, he waits.  It's staying lit now (of course it is!). 

As he's telling me he has no idea what the problem is and we'll just have to keep an eye on it (Stop me if you've heard this one before!  Okay, stop.  I've heard it.  Har. har. har. <-- not amused.) poof the light's out before the tank is finished heating.  Oh goody, this is new. 

Mr. Plumber looks concerned.  He tells me this is not good (I could have told him this).  He goes to check on things again.  He tells me the good news is, he knows what the problem is now!  The bad news is it's relatively expensive to fix!  Oh, yay. 

Mr. Plumber goes out to write up an estimate, he gets on the phone to figure out the deal-io with the part in question.  He comes back.  More good news:  the part is still covered by warranty (again, I mean really, in the 5 1/2 year life of this stupid water heater we have replaced every part except for the actual tank, which holds the water to heat it.), the bad news: the labor is not.  This fix will cost $350 for labor.  (&T^&*(()&^%^&09760-(*&^

I haven't been secretive about our hope to sell our house sometime before the end of this Eon.  What I haven't mentioned is there is another problem with this water heater (of course, it's the bane of our existence), something having to do with a pipe.  It is not fixable.  The only fix is to replace the whole thing.  (Have you gotten the impression that we just have bad luck with this?  Because we do.)  This problem is getting progressively worse.  How will we know when it MUST be replaced?  Simple.  That's when the pipe bursts and we end up with water gushing everywhere.  At least it'll be clear cut!

So I ask Mr. Plumber, "Mr. Plumber, how long do we have before said pipe bursts and we end up with water gushing everywhere?".  Mr. Plumber doesn't know and doesn't wish to make a guess.  Will it last at least a year?  Oh no.  No where near a year.  I can't give you an actual date or anything, but I think you're looking more at a couple of months max before the thing blows, more likely a few weeks.

So, here's what we're looking at first thing Monday morning: No hot water, plumber at the house, a water heater, which even if we patch it together is going to be a ticking time bomb. 

All things considered, we made the decision to go ahead and replace the whole. stupid. water. heater. rather than paying $350 to patch it up (again) and then end up with either something else wrong with it in a few weeks (which would anger me immensely!) or a burst pipe (this would also anger me, or it may push me over the edge into just losing my mind completely, in which case, I likely wouldn't care about this or anything!  Maybe a perk.  I'll place that in the "pro" column.).

$1200 later (don't worry, they gave use a little discount for being a repeat customer!!! :-/ ) we're the proud owners of a functional water heater.  For now, anyway.  If this one goes bad I'm just going to plan on heating water over an open fire in the backyard Little House in the Prairie-style and totally renounce water heaters all together.

So, good news: working water heater.  Bad news: $1200 poorer.

Good news:  Water heater has been replaced, we won't need to do this shortly before selling our house.  Bad news:  We will never be able to afford to move because we just spent $1200 on a water heater!!!


Thankfully Monday was pretty much the low-point of the week.  I guess it's good that we hit the low-point early, right?  The week didn't really get better from there, but it didn't get much worse.  All of our remaining appliances seem to be working (at least for the moment).

Also on Monday (after spending all morning dealing with The Water Heater Episode) I had a conference call.  I baked bread (why?  I don't know.  SO not the day to do it.).  I parented an angry toddler who didn't want to nap.  I was over the week by the close of the day.

The rest of the week was also busy.

Tuesday:  Hearing and conference call, see Monday for toddler's state of mind.

Wednesday:  Two hearings, again, see Monday for toddler update.

Thursday:  Not so bad, I played catch up.  Monday's attitude still largely in effect for toddler.

Friday:  Going better.  Until afternoon hit and I started getting sick.  WHHHYYYYY?!?!?!?!!

Saturday:  Thank goodness Mark was home.  That's all I have to say.

So here I am.  I still seem to be fighting something off.  I'm really hoping I just wake up tomorrow feeling better because I really don't enjoy being sick.  Clearly I don't have time for it.

So, in conclusion...

Week 1 2012:  WIN!

Week 2 2012:  Lose :(

I think the message being sent to me by the Universe is clear: don't count your chicken before they've hatched.  One good week means nothing and 2012 will be full of plenty of ups and downs.

Let's all cross our fingers for a better week 3.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 8th

Sunday:  Dinner at parents' house

Monday:  Buffalo Chicken Chili with Celery and Blue Cheese Dressing to dip

Tuesday:  Chicken Parm Meatball Subs with Baked Kale Chips

Wednesday:  Pork Carnita (CrockPot) Bowls with Cilantro-Lime Rice, Black Beans, Pico de Gallo, Cheese, and Sour Cream

Thursday:  Chili Cheese Dogs with Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Friday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza

Saturday:  Leftovers/Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Monday, January 2, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 1st

Happy New Year! 

Sunday:  New Year's Day!  Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Monday:  At parents' house for dinner

Tuesday:  Zuppa Toscana Soup with Olive Garden Copycat Breadsticks (I stashed a few breadsticks in the freezer last time I made some up so all I'll have to do is defrost and bake them off!)

Wednesday:   Turkey Pot Pie (from the freezer) with Salad

Thursday:  Creamy Chicken Taquitos with 'Refried' Beans (CrockPot)

Friday:  BW3-inspired Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps with Ranch Potato Wedges

Saturday:  Leftovers/Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by OrgJunkie

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Starting the New Year with a New 'Do



It feels SO short, but as you can see from the 'after' picture, it's still collarbone length.  But cutting off 10+ inches of hair is quite a change!  And it was time for a change. 

I most often wear my hair long, but I've had it at pretty much every length at one time or another.  I don't think I've ever made such a drastic change all at once though, but I did it for a good reason.  I'm donating my hair to the Beautiful Lengths program, which provides high quality, real hair wigs, free of charge to women suffering the effects of cancer.

Yay for a fresh look to start the New Year and for the opportunity to give my hair to a good cause!