Monday, June 29, 2015

21 Month Update

This month, Tay's inner diva has really begun to show. She loves wearing jewelry and sunglasses, carrying her purse around the house filled with rocks and plastic silverware, and trying on every shoe she comes across. Her favorites include my mom's house shoes, my loafers that have tassels on the top, and all of Jake's sweaty tennis shoes. In her mind, the bigger the shoes the more fun to scoot around in. She still enjoys dragging all of her clothes out of her dresser, especially the skirts and swimsuits, and once they're out she has to try on every. single. one. I've learned that telling her no only makes her want to do it more, which means it isn't uncommon for her to eat dinner in a tutu and rain boots. Who am I to rain on her parade? Pun intended.

Her love for Curious George and Mickey Mouse remain as strong as ever. The iPad has become a lifesaver on road trips, even though she watches the same three episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on repeat every time. She spends the majority of each episode pointing and yelling at the screen as if Mickey himself is going to jump out and talk back to her. And, of course, she goes completely bonkers whenever the Hot Dog song comes on. One night, we were in the shower when it randomly came on Toddler Pandora and she lost her marbles. She looked at me like HOW is this song playing right now? And then she immediately broke into her signature move which consists of booty drops with her arms bent back like a chicken while twirling in circles. It is the most ridiculous combination of moves but definitely resembles her personality so well. This kid is hilarious.

With the arrival of summer, we have been eating a variety of different foods. So far, the tot loves watermelon, BBQ, and popsicles, mostly because they make a huge mess. She refuses to eat any vegetable except green beans or corn on the cobb which means she eats green beans pretty much every day. As someone who can eat them straight of the can (room temp and all), that's fine by me, but even she gets sick of them after a while. Since moving into this picky eating phase, we have resorted to giving her pouches when we're on the go so that we know she's getting a good amount of fruits and veggies. If it were up to her, she'd live off goldfish, fruit snacks, and applesauce, which is obviously a well-balanced diet.

The tot plays so hard each day that by nap time she is ready for some rest. It isn't always easy to get her to stop and lay down, especially if she is playing with her friends, but she is more than eager to go to bed by 8:00 each night, picking up Penny and her blanket and walking to her room like such a big girl. Some nights, she even attempts to climb into her crib on her own, so I know it won't be much longer before she's attempting to climb out of it as well. Speaking of that transition, our babysitter has moved Taylor from a pack 'n play to a cot at daycare during nap time which I can't fully wrap my head around yet. I cannot believe that my tiny 7 lb baby is big enough to be napping with the 4 year olds, but apparently she is. We have discussed transitioning her to a big girl bed at home as well, but I'm hoping that's something that can wait until the end of summer.

On the potty training front, Tay is eager to use the big girl potty before bath time each night but shows little interest in it any other time. She has successfully used both her portable potty and the full-size toilet on multiple occasions, but we have come to the conclusion that she's still too young to realize when she needs to go nor is she able to fully vocalize the need. So for now, we're taking it one day at a time and encouraging her to go between diaper changes and before bath time. Slow and steady wins the race.

As a side note, my cousin and his wife brought their new baby over this weekend for a visit, and poor Taylor just couldn't hold back the tears when she saw her daddy holding a baby that was not her. Talk about dramatic. But somehow, whenever I held the baby she was fine, giving baby Owen kisses and smothering him with hugs. And then in true toddler fashion, she started jumping on the couch, running around like a crazy person, and stepping on the dog. Never a dull moment in our house!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All I Do is Swim, Swim, Swim, Swim, Swim

Sorry for the corny title. I just re-watched the Lip Sync Battle between Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone and I cannot get that song out of my head.

Life lately has been all about water activities! Whether we're making water cocktails in the wading pool at home or drooling over the water slides at the aquatic center, our afternoons have been spent playing in some form of water. It's already in the 90's here in Missouri, which means if you're going to be outside you need to be wet because it is balmy.

Obviously, the worst part about swimming at home is waiting for the pool to be blown up and filled with water. You can't see her face here, but the anticipation of going down that slide is killing her. Hurry up, Dad!

Slides are this kid's jam. If she goes down once, she has to go down at least 10 times. We're attempting to teach her how to hold her feet up so she will go fast, but for now she mostly just scoots down a little at a time.

When it's cloudy or we don't feel like dragging the other pool out, we let Tay get her feet wet in what I refer to as the turtle pool. It's easy to clean and provides approximately 18 minutes of entertainment, which is about how long it takes for her to start losing interest in something. As for me? The sight of that mini bun and Tay's chubby thighs in a swimsuit make all the preparation and cleanup completely worthwhile. I absolutely love watching this girl sing, laugh, and splash in the water.

Regardless of how much fun she's having, Tay is always up for a snack break. Favorite poolside snacks include popsicles, fruit snacks, and watermelon, all super sticky yet summer-worthy. Thankfully, a quick dip in the pool makes for the world's best wet wipe!

When it comes to the city pool, Jake handles the chaos much better than me. I'm a nervous wreck with all of the bigger kids running around completely unaware of all of the smaller kids they can (and do) knock over. Since Tay hasn't fully mastered the stairs (especially wet ones) and the lifeguards won't allow parents on the play place, we resort to sticking our hands and head under the water spouts. We do that for about 10 minutes, climb in and out of the pool for another 5-10, and spend the rest of the time snacking on our beach towels with our feet in the water. The tot has a blast and is completely wiped by the time we leave, which means pool trips are totally worth the $7 admission fee and the hour spent packing and unpacking (which is equivalent to how long we usually stay at the pool).

No matter where we are or what size pool we're in, it's safe to say our babe loves the water. We'll be making our annual trip to the river in just a couple of weeks to celebrate the 4th of July, so I'm hoping Taylor will tolerate wearing her life jacket long enough for us to get in a few good boat rides and bury our toes in a sand bar or two. Summer is in full swing in the Midwest and we are taking full advantage!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cutting the Cable Cord

Over the last couple of months, we've had quite a few people ask how we made the switch from cable to streaming and how we're able to still watch our favorite programs at a fraction of the price, so I thought I'd share that information with all of you in case you're interested in doing the same.

It all started the summer before Taylor was born when we decided not to renew our DirectTV agreement. Let's face it, cable is expensive and with a newborn nobody has time to watch TV, unless you're up for a feeding at 3 AM but only infomercials are on at that hour anyhow. We did a lot of research before pulling the cable plug entirely, because while I could do without 400+ channels, I knew I couldn't miss my weekly Thursday night line up (shout out to my "Grey's Anatomy" & "Scandal" fans). Since technology is Jake's area of expertise, he did the majority of the research, but don't worry, I threw in my two cents every now and then.

First and foremost, you absolutely must have a solid internet connection prior to cancelling your cable service. This is crucial to not banging your head against the wall every time you try to watch a show. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson the hard way. I was this-close to calling DirectTV until our internet provider conveniently laid fiber in our neighborhood and offered an upgraded rate speed for free. If you have Charter internet in your area, I highly recommend it. We've had nothing but stellar customer service and they do things like offer upgrades for free (at least they did for us). We also purchased a wireless AC router (instead of renting one from our provider) which has tremendously helped with the consistency of our connection.

Next, you need to have some kind of streaming device. Most people only need one of these but since my husband is a technology connoisseur, we have three: a Roku, an Apple TV, and a Samsung smart TV. Each of these devices are connected to a different TV throughout our house but they are all pretty similar in nature. The only one that is a bit of a pain is the Apple TV, but of course it's a pain because it's an Apple product and they don't make their products compatible with anyone else's. Our smart TV is awesome because you plug it in and it's ready to go. No muss, no fuss. The Apple TV and Roku are handy because they're small and can be taken anywhere. For instance, we took our Apple TV on vacation with us so that Taylor could watch cartoons in our bedroom without waking everyone else up. The absolute best part about a streaming device is you can watch what you want when you want where you want (providing there's internet to support it).

Once you have your device, you'll need to sign up for a service like Hulu Plus, Netflix, or Amazon Prime that offers the ability to stream TV shows and movies. We are members of all three services and use each for something different. We use Hulu mainly for streaming current TV series/cartoons, Netflix for viewing older TV series/cartoons/movies, and Amazon Prime for watching free older movies and buying new releases. While these services aren't free, they are cheap. Netflix and Hulu Plus run between $8-$9 a month while Amazon Prime costs an annual fee of $99 (but that includes unlimited streaming of certain movies/music, unlimited cloud photo storage, and free shipping on select Amazon purchases as well). For around $25 a month, we have access to everything that cable has to offer without the high price tag.

Lastly, and this one is optional, you can buy a digital antenna to pick up local channels in your area. We decided to go with the Mohu Leaf which runs about $40. It has been super beneficial for us as the majority of the programs that we like to watch are on ABC, NBC, and FOX, and we are able to pick them up on our antenna for free. This may sound barbaric to some of you, but I actually enjoy watching some shows on live TV. I hate commercials, but I miss the excitement of having to be home at a specific time to catch an episode. And other times I simply cannot wait until the next day to watch an episode, especially when it's a season finale.

While streaming is convenient and affordable, there are some downfalls. For example, Hulu and Netflix offer a wide variety of shows that I already love and allow me the ability to find new shows to enjoy (hello, "Orange is the New Black"), but it does have its limitations. There are a few select shows that I used to watch on cable that aren't available on Hulu or Netflix. Generally, I can find them on the TV station's app on our Roku or Apple TV, but they cost extra per episode and really my life hasn't been impacted by their absence. If anything, my house is cleaner because of it.

The biggest downfall to not having cable is Jake's inability to watch sports. While we can sometimes catch games live on our local channels, he no longer has access to ESPN or Fox Sports Midwest which poses as a big problem during football and baseball seasons. Thankfully, he receives real-time updates on his phone so he doesn't complain too much, but there has been serious discussion around purchasing the MLB package so I'm sure that will happen at some point if they lower the price. Seriously MLB, it's just baseball. You're not offering me a bag of diamonds here. In his spare time, Jake is constantly looking into other options, like Sling TV which offers specific sports channels for around $20-$25 a month, but I'm not sold on shelling out more money for sports just yet so for now we're waiting to see what other options arise.

Occasionally there are times when our internet connection fails and I'm forced to get up and do something productive as opposed to watching TV, but those times are few and far in between. Honestly, I wish we would've cancelled our cable years ago but, like all good things, I was afraid to take the risk. Silly, I know. We still have the ability to watch all of our favorite programs, and Taylor is able to get her Curious George and Mickey Mouse fix. There are times when I wish I still had HGTV or DIY, but I get over it pretty quick when I'm able to pocket an extra $75 every month.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Midweek Break

Sometimes you just need a day off, especially in the middle of a chaotic work week when it's 90 degrees and there's not a cloud in the sky. For us, that day was Wednesday. Thankfully, my husband's youngest sister and her husband have been in town visiting this week which provided us the perfect excuse to take a hump day break.

Our guests arrived Monday evening, and our first item on the agenda was a trip to Shakespeare's for the best pizza in town. Seriously, it's the bomb. The next morning, I was off to a busy day at the office while Jake took Monica and Jacob on a sightseeing tour of Columbia. That evening, we ate BBQ on the back deck and watched the tot bathe herself in corn on the cob juice and Sweet Baby Rays. Never a dull moment with her around!

Wednesday morning, after Jake forced poor Monica to try biscuits & gravy for the first time (which only confirmed the fact that she didn't like them), we were off to Lake of the Ozarks to do some shopping, play a little put put, and have lunch by the water. Let's face it, I'll call anything a "vacation" if it means I get to eat some tasty food.

After a trip to Ross and Target, we determined it was entirely too hot for the outlet mall, so we made our way to Toad Cove to have lunch overlooking the lake. Jacob and Monica reminded us just how lucky we are to have a large body of water so close to us. My family and I took full advantage of the lake when I was a kid and I definitely had my share of day drinking at Party Cove in my early 20's, but now that we're married and have a child of our own we don't go nearly as often as we should. Jake and I both grew up around water, him wake boarding in the falls of Idaho and myself floating down Missouri's rivers. It's safe to say we both have a love for water, which is something I hope we pass down to the tot.

After lunch, we headed to Sugar Creek for a round of mini golf. The dashboard in Jake's truck read 96 degrees, so we were relieved to find the entire course shaded. We opted for the Water Wheel course thinking it would somehow be cooler (it wasn't), and even the tot got in on the action. Jacob ended up beating us all, but his win was bittersweet since everyone got a hole in one except for him! I came in dead last, of course, but we all had a good time, even with the heat.

Since we were all hot, sweaty messes, we decided to call it a day and head back home. We ended our night watching Taylor rub spaghetti all over her face and then chilled downstairs after the tot was in bed. This morning, we said goodbye and vowed to see each other in Idaho after Christmas. We're so happy that Taylor was finally able to meet her Aunt Mo and Uncle Jacob and that we were able to spend some much-needed time with them as well. A midweek break is exactly what we needed.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

I'm a little late posting this but better late than never, right? Get ready for a photo overload...

We spent the holiday weekend in Kansas City, MO with my parents eating yummy BBQ, taking in a baseball game, and avoiding the rain as best we could. We ran into quite a few hiccups along the way, including not booking my parents' hotel room which meant I got to sleep in a bed with my mom and dad for the first time in 20 years while my husband slept on the floor next to Taylor's pack-n-play. Long story short, we'll never, ever be using their services again. The silver lining was that we all got to spend some extra quality time together, including snuggling in bed watching Micky Mouse Clubhouse.

We started the weekend off with a visit to Crown Center, which meant lots of food and lots of shopping! Taylor was in toy heaven hugging every stuffed animal she could get her hands on at the various toy stores. Her favorite stop was at Crayola, mostly because she was able to get out of her stroller to run around, play a giant game of tic-tac-toe, and do some coloring.

Next, we toured the Hallmark Visitor Center where the tot ran wild through the exhibits and my mom got up close and personal with her favorite character, Maxine. While I was busying chasing and shushing Taylor, Jake was furiously on hold with and my dad repeatedly asked for an ice cream break.

After that, we headed to the aquarium, but when we realized how high ticket prices were at the door, we decided to let the tot play outside near the fountains instead. She was perfectly content people watching, picking up discarded cigarette butts rocks, and running around in the patches of grass. Jake was on the phone the entire time anyway, so I'm glad we saved our $80! After nearly 4 hours of being on the phone with (and discovering that every single hotel room within an 80 mile radius of KC was booked for the night), Jake finally gave up and we headed to the hotel where the 5 of us stayed in a room with one king size bed and ate pizza in the dark while Taylor struggled to fall asleep. It was an interesting night to say the least.

Despite our struggles the day before, we were up early the next morning to hit the breakfast buffet and head to Kauffman Stadium. Even with rain in the forecast all day, we were determined to make Sunday better than Saturday. We made a quick trip to Target to pick up some rain gear (and lots of iced coffee for me) and prepared ourselves for a soggy day at the ball park. When I saw how high up our seats were, I was a bit nervous about holding the tot on my lap but thankfully she did really well! A hot dog, nachos, and a slushy kept her occupied until the 7th inning until I finally had enough apologizing to the guy in front of us for Taylor kicking him in the head and dropping food on his shoulders and we ventured to the kid's area to play. Seriously, Kauffman, add a little leg room, would ya?

A play place, batting cages, and carousel were an extremely happy sight for a one year old who had been sitting still for over an hour. She ran straight to the play area where Jake struggled to maneuver through the sea of kids to keep an eye on her. Eventually, she spotted the carousel and we were able to ride a couple of times before the game ended.

We left the game soggy and hungry but with a Cardinals victory! Our next destination was Johnny's BBQ in Mission, KS for some authentic KC-style ribs, and my-oh-my were they delicious! This chick cleaned her plate and needed approximately 372 wet wipes to get clean.

The next morning we had a late breakfast at Ihop and then made a quick 3 hour trip through Ikea before returning home. We unloaded the car, said goodbye to my parents, and then finally sat down to relax. Mini vacations are fun but they sure are exhausting.

I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I'm pretty sure we're still recovering from ours!