Director Jewels: November 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Celebrating Addie's First Birthday

My little girl turned one year old last week. I was still working on ideas for a first birthday party at that point, but I didn't let myself worry about it much that day. Andrew was able to come home from work a little early so that we could have a family celebration. Advance warning: this is one of those photo-heavy posts.


I don't really think that a one-year-old needs a lot of birthday gifts. We picked out a few new books for Adelaide - some BabyLit titles and Curious George at the Zoo. I won a blog giveaway earlier this year for a really sweet personalized book - My Royal Birthday Adventure from I See Me - that was perfect to give her. We each picked out a princess doll for her - Daddy chose Peach and I chose the Little Princess doll from NA Bear Company.


The new gifts were a big hit. She's in love with books right now - I think she would read all day long if she could. She also latched onto those baby dolls, especially Princess Peach.


We went on a late-afternoon adventure to the Kansas City Zoo. We have an annual pass and it is one of our favorite places to visit with the kids. There aren't a whole lot of exciting things to do for a one-year-old's birthday, but the zoo is an awesome choice.


Addie and Lincoln were both pretty excited to go see the animals.


We started off by checking out the brand new Penguin Plaza. We have been looking forward to this exhibit's opening all year!


I wasn't sure what I really expected, so to say I was wowed would be an understatement. The penguin exhibit was amazing. The kids were enthralled. When we went through the main entrance, we were able to walk right up to the glass and view the penguins just inches away. I've never been so close to one of these amazing creatures before!




The exhibit also features tropical fish and multiple viewing penguin viewing areas, at different levels of the building. The Penguin Plaza will most definitely be a stop we don't ever skip on future zoo trips. We loved it!



After the penguins, we headed off to Asia and Australia. Addie thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was so excited to see red pandas, tigers, small black monkeys and kangaroos. She also never let go of her Princess Peach, the whole trip.


She was, however, extremely terrified of the blow dryer in the restroom and the bleating of the sheep. We ran out of time and didn't get to visit the Discovery Barn or the carousel, but we'll make another trip sometime for that!


When we got home, I asked Andrew to make us a yummy Pinterest dinner using this recipe I found for Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. Sounds delicious, right?


You can't really tell in this photo, but our kitchen was filled up with smoke. Maybe we did something wrong, but it was a serious Pinterest fail. Our pumpkin pancakes turned out looking more like burnt chicken.




They didn't taste that great, either. Maybe we'll try again someday, but this was one of our biggest recipe fails ever.

I had planned to make a little cake for the occasion, but ran out of time so we stopped by a local bakery to get a cupcake for Miss Addie's birthday. She was so excited.




She didn't eat the whole thing, but she obviously enjoyed it. She shoved a lot of it into her mouth, then rubbed it all over her face and in her hair. The night ended with a bath and lots of nursing.

I think it was a pretty happy day for our little princess. I can't wait to share photos from her Owl birthday party. It was adorable!

Happy Thanksgiving! {2013}

Well, it's been a day around here. We had planned to attend two family gatherings. I was excited because we were all finally going to meet my new baby nephew as my brother and sister-in-law are in town for the weekend. Unfortunately, we ended up going nowhere. Lincoln has had a runny nose and cough for the last few days and overnight it has sounded a fair amount like croup.

So, obviously we did not want to share our contagious germs - and we stayed home. It was a rather long day filled with blowing noses and coughing. Last year we stayed home because we had a newborn on Thanksgiving. That was a much better reason to miss family gatherings.


Anyway, we're hoping that everyone is on the mend. The kids still looked cute in their (very hastily and at-the-last-minute crafted) turkey shirts.


And this afternoon, we even got a jump on putting up the Christmas decorations. Lincoln shouted "Christmas tree in OUR house! Yeah!" about twenty times. It's pretty safe to say he's excited.


I am already a little bit worried about how many times the kids are going to knock it over this year.

The night ended with Lincoln biting the inside of his lip while running around like a little crazy man. We are quite ready for a new day!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disney's Frozen - Now in Theaters! {Review}

Disclosure: I received passes to attend an advance screening of FROZEN. All opinions expressed are my own.

 Before we had kids (back when I had hobbies and some measure of time for them), Andrew and I saw movies all the time. We don't have that luxury anymore, so any chance to see a new film is exciting. And there's no way I would want to miss a new Disney princess movie!

FROZEN, out in theaters today, is the latest offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios (creators of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph). The voice talent includes Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad.

MILD SPOILERS BELOW!
 

Loosely inspired by the story of The Snow Queen (by Hans Christian Andersen), this story follows sisters Elsa and Anna from childhood until a very pivotal event in their lives - when Elsa is crowned Queen of their kingdom of Arendelle. After Elsa's icy power traps Arendelle in an eternal winter, Anna sets off to make things right. Her journey introduces her to a talking snowman, some "love experts," and a very adorable reindeer named Sven.


I went into this movie expecting it to be an icy version of Tangled. The trailers did not overly impress me, so I guess my expectations just weren't very high. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. I was distracted during the first scene of the movie because the 3D element was not working properly in our advanced screening auditorium. Once that was resolved, I was quickly drawn into the story.

I found the characters of Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff as children to be unbelievably endearing. Maybe that's because they said things that made me laugh, or because tiny Kristoff looks an awful lot like my son Lincoln - but regardless, for only being in the first bit of the movie, they all left an impression. The song little Anna sings to her sister Elsa has been running through my head for more than an entire day.

The movie had a nice pace throughout, not too slow, but not too fast. The characters were all likeable and well-designed. I found myself smiling and laughing like all of the young kids around me.


I found Idina Menzel (best known for her portrayal of Elphaba in "Wicked: The Music") an odd casting for Elsa at first - during her first musical number, her character just seemed too small and innocent for that powerful voice. Once Elsa had "transformed," it was a better fit. I did wish for a better "showcase" song for Idina's voice, however! I was also surprised that Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) did not have a song aside from a small comic melody. A few of the songs felt a little unnecessary and as though they were written for the stage, not screen - but they were still enjoyable. I think my biggest contention with this film is that there is no true standing anthem song - or love song.

Overall, I don't think it quite ranks as a Disney classic in the same sense as Cinderella or Snow White, but it is fun, heartwarming (pun intended), and sweet. I'm putting it on my wish list of titles to own for our kids' collection.

FROZEN is rated PG for mild action and rude humor and has a running time of 108 minutes. Have you seen it? What did you think?

Disclosure: I received passes to attend an advance screening of FROZEN. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The One Year My Princess Devotions: Preschool Edition {Book Review}

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from Tyndale Blog Network. All opinions expressed below are my own. 

Little Miss Addie is already a big fan of princesses. We have one particular board book filled with sparkly princesses that we read multiple times a day - and it is starting to fall apart. It seems fairly certain that we have many days filled with tiaras and wands and imagination ahead of us. I'm not complaining at all.

I actually might have a little bit of a princess obsession myself, so I'm already on the lookout for books that will last a lot longer than our current board book. Addie may not be old enough for this one yet, but I was excited to take a peek at The One Year My Princess Devotions: Preschool Edition.


Featuring a one-page devotion for each day of the year, this is a resource I can imagine my little girl using as she learns how important it is to read the Bible on her own. I have struggled most of my life with finding a consistent devotion routine, and I want my kids to develop a consistent habit while they are young.


Each devotional section includes "Royal Words" (Scripture), Princess Thoughts (the devotional message), A Prayer for the King (an example of a prayer), Princess in Action (a related activity). The book is embellished with pink butterflies, flowers, hearts, and ladybugs throughout. Overall, it's a sweet title and one that I will be saving until Addie is old enough to enjoy it.

And in the meantime... I'll keep reading our quickly deteriorating princess board book. I think it has at least a few more rounds of life left.

Thank you to TBN for providing my review sample!  I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own.  For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stylish Winter Apparel for Kids - Thanks, OshKosh B'gosh!

I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for OshKosh B'gosh. I received a gift card to facilitate my shopping trip and to thank me for participating.


One of the perks of having adorable little children is the privilege to dress them in miniature versions of the latest fashions. I admit that I don't keep up with fashion very well, but if I get the chance to put my baby girl in jeggings - you bet I will. The problem comes along when you realize that there are a lot of options when it comes to kid's clothing, and it can be hard to know where to get the best bang for your buck.

OshKosh B'gosh offered me the chance to shop at one of their stores to see how much of my children's winter wardrobe I could purchase with $100. I headed out to Legends Outlets, which is my closest location. The last time I was there, Addie was a tiny baby!


My kids were less excited about this exciting shopping venture than me, so our trip was a rather short and sweet affair. The store was well-organized and the shelves spaced far enough apart that I could navigate my double stroller through most of the store without colliding with clothes.


Everything in the store was on sale and I had a fantastic 25% off a $30 purchase coupon, which made it a little hard to calculate exactly how much I was spending. Lincoln was playing on my cell phone or I would have gotten out my calculator! Needless to say, with a coupon on top of great prices, I saved a lot.


I ended up spending about $18 more than my $100 gift card after all the sales, coupon, and tax were combined. But, here's the best part - for each $50 spent, I earned a $10 coupon to use between now and the end of the year! So I still have another $20 to use the next time I visit OshKosh B'gosh!

Here's what I got!
-3 piece Christmas outfit for Lincoln (white button-up shirt, black corduroy pants, gray sweater vest)
-2 complete outfits for Addie (one dress, one skirt + embellished shirt)
-Matching reindeer Christmas Pajamas for both kids
-4 Pajama sets for Addie


I'm especially excited about these Christmas pajamas. One of our family holiday traditions is to let our kids open a gift on Christmas Eve - it will always contain new Christmas PJ's and a story to read before bed. Last year, I procrastinated and was out searching for pajamas on Christmas Eve. These are beyond cute and will make for great photos on Christmas morning! And the best part - it's something already crossed off my holiday to-do list!


My tiny fashionista is ready for
dazzling people with her pretty smile.

I couldn't be more pleased with the clothing purchased on this shopping trip. The styles are trendy, but maintain a sense of classic style - very much what I tend to reach for when I'm picking out what my kids will wear. I can tell that these clothing pieces are going to last through the winter season and I know we will get a lot of use from them! Even after Lincoln and Addie have outgrown them, they'll for sure be going in a "keep" pile for future kids.


I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for OshKosh B'gosh. I received a gift card to facilitate my shopping trip and to thank me for participating. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Adelaide: 1 Year Old

One year old. That's the latest around here. We celebrated Addie's first birthday on Monday. I know I talk a lot about how I'm not in a hurry, but somehow time keeps marching right on anyway. But it's not marching. It's racing down an absurdly steep roller coaster track, getting faster and faster every day. It really seems like it was minutes ago that I felt like we had waited forever to meet our Adelaide. Her amazing birth can't have been so long ago.

The time has flown with you, baby princess. I am striving to enjoy every minute, even in spite of whatever craziness may come our way. This week is, again, crazy - because I am working on your upcoming birthday bash!


Milestones: There is no more crawling in our house, ever. You are on your feet, trying your very best to keep up with Lincoln, all the time. You love to grab things you know you are not supposed to have and "run away" with them. Your version of running is to take several quick steps away from me (half the time you fall over from all this effort), and while I do my best not to laugh at you while you are being naughty, it's one of my favorite things that you do right now.

You're pretty consistently taking one or two naps a day right now. This may not seem like much to the average parent, but for me, it's miraculous. You are an incredibly light sleeper, though, so it's a tough task to keep Lincoln quiet while you are resting. Nighttime sleep has not really changed at all. You just don't want to lie down and be away from me. Every few nights, I am able to put you down for an hour or two and that helps my sanity.


We're still practicing baby-led weaning and I have been offering you more foods in the last month. You've tried lots of new things lately, and the only one you completely turned your nose up at was carrots. You still want to nurse frequently during the day and at least a couple of times in the night. We made it easily to a full year of nursing and I have no plan to stop until you are ready. If you take after your brother, that could be quite some time, since your first birthday also marked one year of tandem nursing for me.

You say "mama," "dada," and "brother" fairy consistently still, though sometimes I doubt whether you understand them. One word that you clearly know is "Piper" - Grandma (Bun) and Grandpa (Pa)'s dog. Or, possibly you just think that all dogs are called "Piper" because we've heard you refer to other dogs the same way. You are startle to babble even more, with "words" that are sounding more real all the time.


Maybe my favorite milestone? Just a day or two before your birthday, you started to give "loves" to your toys and books. You will do this on command now, and it is the cutest thing. You'll give love to just about anything or anybody right now. I don't want this stage to end!

You also have recently started to dance whenever you hear music - or when we say "dance, Addie!" You swing your arms from side to side when you dance and it is adorable.


Loves:  Right now, you adore baby dolls, Lincoln's cars, and especially books. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is toddle over to the bookshelf, select a favorite, and find a lap to sit in with your book. You'll bring the book up to me, hand it over, then turn around and back yourself into my lap, ready to read. I love it. Lincoln loves books too, but in a very different way. I am enjoying the little bookworm I have on my hands!

You and Lincoln have become better friends in the last month, but you're still too little to understand that you can't play as roughly as brother. Lincoln receives multiple admonitions each day because he pulls you over or knocks you down or sits on you. Sometimes you don't mind, and the two of you giggle yourselves silly. Other times (more often), you start screaming. He is very affectionate right now - he'll come up to you and hug your neck and say "awwww, cute baby!"

You love snuggling with Daddy when he comes home from work each day, and you try your hardest to be involved in the roughhousing that goes on around here.


Hates: You do not like it when you don't get your way. You're developing quite a little attitude. Surprisingly, you did not hate your Halloween costume. I expected you would since getting dressed and changing your diaper is almost always a battle. 


You have a few choice people that you know - mostly grandparents - and anyone else who tries to talk to you is met with the most sorrowful face you could ever imagine. And heaven help them if they try to hold you or even touch you!

You still utterly despise your car seat. We went out of town just before your birthday and you were most unhappy about having to ride so long in the van.


Weight/Height: You stood on our scale a couple days ago and it said 24 pounds. 24 pounds! 12-18 month clothes are fitting pretty well lately. Baby girl outfits are ridiculously adorable, and I love picking out what my tiny fashionista will wear every day.

You still have just 6 teeth (4 on top, 2 on bottom), but I am expecting a whole bunch of them to pop through all at once, anytime now. You've had teething symptoms for weeks.

I put your hair in tiny baby pigtails last week and it was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. You weren't very happy about it, but we'll try again when you have a little bit more hair.


Precious little girl, you have changed our lives for the better and we are so glad to know you. I can't wait to see what the next year brings - and I have an idea it will fly by even faster than this one did.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What to Bring When You Travel with Kids

I've started a packing list because we're planning a mini vacation with our kids. The task is a little bit daunting for me - because our last trip was almost a disaster. We took a short road trip over Labor Day weekend, to attend a family reunion and visit some close friends who live too far away. We expected an uneventful trip. That was, unfortunately, not what we got.

I thought I was prepared for a vacation with the kids. It turns out that I was ready for some aspects of travel, but when it came to the unexpected - I could have used some tips. Traveling with Infants and Toddlers is not for the faint of heart!

You see, we arrived at our family reunion and Lincoln started acting weird. Anyone who knows my little boy will tell you that it's abnormal for him to come find me and lay his head in my lap and then not move for fifteen minutes. I started to worry that he might be dehydrated (it was incredibly hot), so we tried to get him to drink some water and I let him nurse.

Cue the unexpected: within a few minutes, he was throwing up all over the spare bedroom. This was at my mom's cousin's house - and I had never met her before that afternoon. Awesome.

We started worrying that he was suffering from heat exhaustion, so we headed to our hotel to crash and called emergency services to ask what we should do if his condition worsened. Thankfully, he took a quick turn for the better, but we spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies and trying to keep everything in the hotel room from being coated in toddler puke. Best family vacation ever?


If not for the heat exhaustion situation, I would have been prepared for an awesome trip. Here are a few things I brought along for a road trip with an infant and a toddler:

1. Movie Player and Headphones. We don't own a tablet of any kind (gasp - I know, right?), but we do have a mini DVD player that can be charged. I would prefer a player that can be clipped onto a seat back for Lincoln - I don't like that he is able to pop out the DVD or press buttons while driving, plus I try to keep their car seat spaces very clear of possible projectiles - but on a 4-hour journey, a viewing of Tangled may be the only thing that saves you from hysteria.

2. Small New (or revisited) Toys. Lincoln feels most comfortable when he has toy cars nearby. He always wants to hold one even when we go for a small ride. We keep a few in reserve for halfway through the trip when he's tired of all the ones he has seen so far.

3. LOTS of Snack Options
. You can't bring too many. My go-to non-messy snacks are crackers or small cereal (aka Cheerios or Chex).


4. Books - including new ones from Target's $1 Section. Books have always been kind of hit and miss with Lincoln, but Addie loves them all. So I can just bring all of Lincoln's favorites and a few random titles and they'll both enjoy reading on the go. If you have a rear-facing teething infant, though? Be warned that she might chew them all to pieces while you aren't watching.

5. Lullaby Soundtrack. Because, if you're lucky, it just might lull those little ones to sleep for a large portion of your journey.



And, bonus: What to Bring in Case Someone Gets Sick While You are Vacationing.



1. More Extra Clothes than you can possibly imagine. For you, for your child, for your spouse. By the end of our two-day trip, I was out of things to wear. And I typically over-pack.

2. Favorite Blankets or Pillows. It was way nicer to snuggle my sick boy in a familiar blanket than it would have been to use something from the hotel.

3. Extra Pacifiers. This trip happened before we retired Lincoln's "me," so we definitely would have been sad without it.

4. If you use them, Pedialyte Pops or other hydrating liquid. Since Lincoln is still nursing, I skip the chemical/dye ingredients of typical hydrating products altogether, but I still sent Andrew to find a drugstore on this vacation, "just in case" I wanted to have some for Lincoln. I wasn't sure how long this random sickness would last!


It was an eventful trip, if not an entirely pleasant one. Thankfully, Lincoln felt just fine the next morning and we were able to go on with our plans. Hopefully this is not a sign for how our future family vacations may go!
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