New beginnings!

It seems very appropriate to me that today, this first Monday of the Jewish new year, is Julia’s first day at her new school!  I have my fingers crossed that everything goes well.  I just called to check on her and so far it seems she’s having a great day!

After the chaos of last week, we had a lovely few days at home for Rosh Hashana.  Wednesday night we were invited to the home of some friends in Pikesville for dinner.  We put Julia to sleep right away when we got there and then we were able to enjoy the meal and some adult conversation.  We had a wonderful time!

Thursday we went to services at a new-to-us Shul in Pikesville.  They had babysitting for the holidays so we got Julia dressed up and took her with us.  She wore a dress that my mom made for me when I was little and she looked absolutely adorable! 9.29.2014(37)Julia did great playing with the other kids downstairs and Ken & I were able to enjoy services.  The Shul is very small, with a cozy and intimate feeling like the one we belonged to in New Orleans so for now we are thinking we may start to get involved with their community, hopefully going at least once a month for Shabbat.  They apparently have babysitting for weekly Shabbat services too, so we’ll be able to bring Julia with us without a problem.  Our friend Rebecca, who we knew from New Orleans, invited us for lunch after services so we got to meet her husband and some of their friends from the Shul.  We had a great time!

Thursday night we decided to stay home for dinner since we were out late on Wednesday night and we knew we’d be out late the following evening.  We made Cholent for the first time and it turned absolutely perfect.  And of course now Ken is saying we should make it every few weeks!

Friday I decided to skip services (not so much fun to go by yourself!)… instead, Julia and I had a lovely day at home.  We ran a few errands in the morning, had lunch with Miss Steffi and then went to the playground in the afternoon!  9.29.2014(38)

When Ken got home, we all got ready to go out for Shabbat dinner at my boss’ house! 9.29.2014(33)

It’s pretty special to be invited to dinner at your boss’ house, especially when you have a very active 2-year old!  We made sure to bring lots of toys and books to keep her occupied.  She didn’t really eat much at dinner but she had lots of fun playing with all the stuffed animals they pulled out for her.  And everyone thought it was adorable that she and I were matching in black & white stripes!

Saturday, Uncle Adam & Miss Jenn were in DC for a wedding so we went to spend the day with them!  We met up with them at the Zoo, which neither Ken nor I had ever been to.  It’s much better than the Baltimore Zoo, and one big bonus is that it’s free!  The older Julia gets, the more fun she’s able to have at the zoo but I think this time the best attraction was Uncle Adam!  She had so much fun with him.  It was great to see him.  9.29.2014(35)

Julia also got to go on a carousel for the first time!  She went once with Mommy & once with Daddy! 9.29.2014(34)

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And of course she asked to hold Daddy’s and Uncle Adam’s hands so they could swing her in the air! 9.29.2014(31)

After the zoo, we all went to grab lunch at Chipotle.  While we were there, we saw two of the Duggar girls from the show “19 Kids and Counting”!  Jenn & I were so excited to meet them so we took our picture with them.  They were just as sweet in person as they seem on the show.  9.29.2014(36)

Apparently they were in town for some very conservative republican conference with Sarah Palin as one of the keynote speakers.  I may not share their political views but they seem like a lovely family.

Sunday morning Daddy & Julia went to soccer class while I cleaned up around the house and then we went out to buy a new carseat to replace the one that was in Ken’s car.  Technically speaking our carseat was probably fine since the accident was fairly minor and according to the website for the carseat manufacturer, the seat should be fine after a minor accident… but insurance companies don’t like to mess with carseats so they agreed to replace ours.

After lunch and nap, we went to beautiful Sherwood Gardens for a 2nd birthday photo shoot with Miss Steffi!  She took photos last year for Julia’s 1st birthday and I loved the way they turned out so I asked her to take some again this year for her 2nd birthday.  She sent me just a fraction of the ones she took but I absolutely LOVE them!  Here are some of my favorites: 9.29.2014(25)

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And, for comparison, I made a couple of collages to compare the photos Steffi took last year with the ones she took this year.  It’s amazing to see the difference in Julia between her 1st birthday and her 2nd birthday.  She’s gone from baby to little girl.  And her personality has just continued to blossom! 9.29.2014(29)

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Here’s wishing my little munchkin a very happy 2nd birthday next week!

“When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good!”

9.18.2014

The title of this post comes from a Daniel Tiger episode.  Daniel Tiger is Julia’s new favorite show to watch.  I like this show much better than her previous favorite, Bubble Guppies.  Each episode of Daniel Tiger talks about a feeling and there’s a little song that goes along with each one.  One of them talks about how if something bad happens, you should try to look on the bright side and find the positive aspects that can come about from a negative situation.

“When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.”  

Yesterday was a very bad day but I’m trying to keep that little song in mind and look on the bright side of things.  Yesterday, around 11:30, I got a call from Julia’s daycare that she had bitten yet again.  The director asked us to come in to speak to her in person.  So around 4:30, Ken and I went to meet with her and she informed us that she’s made the decision that things just aren’t working out anymore and she asked us to find another child care arrangement.  (Less than a half hour later, when we were leaving the daycare, we were rear-ended in a hit-and-run accident.  The driver of the car got out to look at the damage, got back in his car and then drove away.  When the police looked up the plate number that Ken read them from the other car, it was registered to a truck, which means we’re dealing with stolen plates or something… and probably an uninsured motorist.)

Luckily, I had been anticipating this very thing happening so I had already been in touch with another daycare director.  He’s aware of the situation and basically already had a spot open for Julia.  We just had to fill out some paperwork to put things into motion.  So today is Julia’s last day at the daycare s she’s been at since she was 10 months old.  I figured she would want one last day to say goodbye to the friends and teachers she’s had.  I’ll be home with Julia the rest of this week (I have an appointment tomorrow morning and Thursday and Friday both daycares are closed for Rosh Hashana) and then Monday morning she’ll be starting at her new daycare.

Even though Julia is not yet 2, I think she understands a lot more than we sometimes give her credit for and I’m afraid for her that she’s going to feel like she did something bad.  I’m afraid she’ll be sad that she won’t get to see her friends anymore.  She was very close with the other two girls in her class and I’m sad for her that she won’t be seeing them every day.  But at the same time I feel relieved that Julia won’t be in a stressful environment anymore.  I think that the more Julia bit, the more the teachers felt helpless and unable to control her behavior.  They started to get anxious and feel guilty about the whole situation and I think that stress was palpable in the classroom and probably caused Julia some anxiety herself.  That, in turn, probably contributed to the biting problem.

At the same time, I’m excited about Julia’s new daycare.  I have no doubt that she is resilient, as children tend to be, and that she will make new friends.  She will have new wonderful teachers, and she will make new memories in her new school.  I have a lot of hope and optimism right now that the simple change of scenery will be good for Julia.  She’ll be going into a new school where she doesn’t have a reputation for being a biter.  The teachers do not have anxiety about her being there, and they will treat her like they treat all the other kids, not as the “biter” in the classroom.  Parents will not have preconceived notions about her being a bad kid and she will hopefully start fresh, with a clean slate.

Another little “golden nugget” from Daniel Tiger is the little song “When you do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do.”  This morning I tried to give Julia a little bit of warning about what’s about to happen.  We can’t really sit down and have a heart-to-heart with her but I tried to explain that today would be her last day at her school with her friends but that on Monday she’s going to go to a new school that will be so much fun, with new toys and a new playground, new friends and new teachers.  Her answer? “No.”  That stung a little… but hopefully after a few days at home, Monday morning will go smoothly!

This morning when I brought Julia into her classroom, one of her teachers, who’s been with Julia from the beginning, started to tear up.  They’ve all seen Julia’s good side and I think they really love her and her good qualities and they’ve felt so guilty this whole time about not being able to stop her when she does bite.  I think they will miss her and her spunky personality a lot, but hopefully we will stay in touch with the ones Julia’s become close with.  They can still babysit and see her periodically. 9.12.2014(2)

9.12.2014(4)Sometimes Jim and my mother-in-law are right that everything happens for a reason.  We will make the most of this and find something good!

 

23 Months Old & Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday Julia turned 23 months old, and today is my 29th birthday!  I cannot believe that in just a month she’ll be 2.  The past 2 years have gone by so quickly in some ways and so slowly in others.  Ken & I were looking, just yesterday, at photos of Julia as a newborn and I hardly remember her being that little yet I can barely remember what life was like before she was here.  She is such a little ball of energy with such a fun, exciting personality.  She is so smart and observant, is becoming very verbal and expressive.  She loves to dance, loves to do arts and crafts projects, loves to play with sand, water, play dough, blocks and puzzles.  She loves her baby dolls and pretends to put them to sleep and give them milk.  She loves putting them in her stroller to walk them around the house.  On the playground Julia has no fear: she climbs up the stairs to go down the slide all by herself, loves playing in the sandbox and even tries to go on the big kid swings.  9.9.2014(4)

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9.9.2014On Sunday we started her in a little soccer class since we figured it would be a good way for her to burn off a bunch of energy on Sunday mornings and it will give us something fun to do together on Sundays that isn’t just sitting around the house playing with the same old toys.  Especially as the weather starts to cool off too, it will be good to have a more organized activity to do each weekend.  And since I need some time to myself sometimes, to get errands done, get a mani/pedi or just sit and contemplate life, it will give Ken something fun to do with Julia just the two of them (as long as he’s not on call).  Julia LOVED it!  She got a special shirt to wear to class and she loved running around, chasing the soccer ball, playing with balloons and bubbles, building cone towers, and playing with the parachute.  9.9.2014(7)

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Julia’s in the “Little Bunnies” class so all the kids are between 18 and 24 months, which is good since none of them have any attention span at all!  They all ran off at times to do their own things, none of them were very good at following directions, and they all had random little movements from time to time but it was so cute to watch.  Our friends Sam & Mark had their little boy, Lincoln, in the class during the summer months and they told me that by the end of the 11-week session, he was able to do so much more on his own and he had a lot more control over his movements.  I’m excited to see Julia progress over the next 10 weeks of the class!

The place where the class is held also holds dance, gymnastics, and other little sports classes for little kids so maybe when Julia’s a little older we’ll try to do some dance but for now I think soccer will be good for her since it allows her to run around, jump and be a wild little kid!

Of course interspersed between the good moments, Julia has some very frustrating times too… this past weekend she was very clingy.  She seems to be going through a Mommy phase at the moment.  9.9.2014(8)

She wanted to be with Mommy all weekend, got upset when I left the room, kept telling Ken to go away and didn’t want to do much with Ken (except for watch Elmo!) 9.9.2014(5)

Even though we both know that we can’t take much that she does personally, it still hurt his feelings a little and was hard to see… so we tried to do as much together as we could.  We did bath time together, we ate meals together, and we all had a little dance party!

Julia’s most frustrating behavior these days is biting… she’s been biting at school for about 8 months and I saw it myself for the first time on Sunday during a playdate with another little girl.  It seems to be mostly when Julia wants a toy that another kid has but sometimes it seems random and unprovoked.  We started working with a Clinical Social Worker to try to figure out what’s going on and her theory is that Julia gets over-stimulated during transitional times and that tactile/sensory activities help to calm her down.  Yesterday a woman from a state-funded non-profit came to do an observation of Julia to see her in action at daycare.  She said she thinks Julia may have some anxiety that comes from not being in control of situations and that she bites when she feels like she’s out of control.  She’s going to do a few more observations and help by giving the teachers and us suggestions about how to help Julia figure out her feelings and learn better ways of expressing herself.  We are working on using her words and we are also helping by describing her feelings for her: “I see that you’re feeling frustrated/mad/sad/angry/disapointed” etc.  I know that this, too, shall pass and that she won’t be biting her friends forever but for now it’s very frustrating because in some ways it feels like Julia has 2 different personalities–at home she’s one kid and then at daycare she has trouble playing with her little friends and turns into a little monster.  She has some good days with very few incidents but the bad days are really bad.  Friday she had 4 incidents and daycare called me twice about coming to pick her up… I was able to delay it until the end of the day but she had a really rough day.  I feel like this situation is starting to cause me some anxiety too… I get nervous anytime my phone rings during the day that it’s going to be daycare calling to tell me Julia bit another kid and broke the skin.  I’m scared when I get to daycare to pick Julia up that the teachers are going to tell me she had a horrible day and had several behavioral incidents.  And I get nervous taking Julia around other kids… I’m afraid when we go to the playground or have a playdate with another little kid that Julia’s going to bite.  This weekend we’re going to one of her little friends’ birthday parties and I’m scared that she’s going to bite the birthday girl.  I’m also nervous about Julia’s own birthday… I’m questioning whether it is a good idea to plan a birthday party for Julia if she may bite the friends who come to celebrate with her.  And I feel like that’s not fair to Julia.

Ken has also mentioned that anxiety is a lot for a little person like Julia to handle at this age when there’s so much about the world that she doesn’t understand yet.  We’ve definitely noticed a correlation between how she does during the day at school and her mood when she gets home at the end of the day.  Better day at school = better day at home, so obviously her behavioral problems are affecting her mood and she can tell that she’s in trouble or has done something wrong.  When we talk about biting, she doesn’t make eye contact, repeats what we say but doesn’t really talk with us, and looks down as though she feels guilty.  That’s a lot for a little girl to process and I feel bad that she’s going through this.  At the same time of course I feel horrible for the little kids she’s biting and their parents.  No parent wants to pick their kid up from school with bite marks on their hand.  One little boy even had to go to the doctor and was put on antibiotics because Julia broke the skin when she bit down and the bite was on the verge of getting infected.  That makes me feel just awful.  I’ve also heard from a couple parents that at home when their kids talk about Julia, they say things like “Julia, no biting” or “don’t bite me, Julia.”  That makes me feel terrible that biting is the first thing they think of when they hear her name.  We’re doing all we can to help her and we’re hoping things get better as we continue to work with the Social Worker and the Early Intervention Program.

Hopefully over the next several weeks as we continue to work with the “experts,” we will see some improvement but I can’t wait for a week when Julia has 0 incidents for me to hear about!

On a happier note… today’s my 29th birthday!  Since I don’t really care much about birthdays and this one is fairly insignificant, we’re not really doing anything big.  Ken & I are going out to dinner just the two of us tonight and I might take an hour this afternoon to treat myself to a mani/pedi but other than that it’s just life as usual.  Next year on the other hand… next year for my 30th birthday I might need a huge birthday party!  (Ken… you’re on!)

San Francisco… open your Golden Gate!

Julia and I got back yesterday afternoon from a lovely trip to San Francisco for my best friend Julia’s bridal shower!  We flew early Friday morning to San Francisco, where my parents picked us up from the airport.  We’ve found that Julia does much better with early morning flights than flights that leave later in the day since she’s more likely to go back to sleep AND take a regular nap.  Friday afternoon, my parents and I took Julia to a playground to let her run around and burn off some energy.

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Saturday we played at home for a bit then went to visit Julia at her house!  Baby Julia had fun trying on Julia’s sunglasses and making very silly faces! 9.3.2014(9)

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We went back home for lunch and played at home for a bit… Julia had fun hugging the tree in my parents’ front yard: 9.3.2014(14)

and she LOVED playing the piano!  9.3.2014(15)

My mom and I then took her to yet another playground, where we met up with my friend Dana.  Dana is getting married in just over a month in Vermont and we will be driving up for her wedding.  It was nice that we got to see Dana this visit in a slightly less hectic environment… I imagine she’ll be very busy on the day of her wedding, saying hi to all the guests so it was nice that we got to see her for a fun afternoon at the park.  9.3.2014(13)

Julia has become much more brave on the playground: climbing up structures by herself, going down the slide all on her own, etc.  but what she liked the most was just running around in the grass.  She loved having a big open space to just run around.  There was a little grassy hill at the playground so I showed Julia how to roll down the hill.  When a little boy started doing it too, Julia thought it was one of the funniest things she had ever done!

We came home after the playground to play at home for a bit before dinner and bedtime.  My mom got Julia a baby doll and she had tons of fun lining up her baby doll and stuffed animals in little chairs and reading to them/watching TV with them/putting them to sleep.  It was very sweet!  9.3.2014(12)

The hardest thing about our trip to California was that Julia was quite affected by the time change… the first two days we were there, she was up at 3:30 AM which was quite draining on me and my mom (who helped by getting up with her to let me sleep in one of the mornings!)  She adjusted a bit the third day and didn’t wake up until 5:30 but by then it didn’t make much of a difference since we were leaving the following day.  I think that the time change also caused her to feel a little bit off in general since on Saturday she was very clingy… Saturday morning we had to get ready for Julia’s bridal shower so in the morning we played at home for a bit… Julia liked dressing up in this hat and carrying her backpack around the house: 9.3.2014(7)

and she had a great time playing with bubbles in the sink with my mom! 9.3.2014(6)

Somehow I managed to take only one picture at the shower (of Julia & my mom playing in the sink) but the shower was a lot of fun.

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The food my mom made was delicious and everyone had a really good time.  Julia told me it was perfect and exactly what she wanted from her bridal shower, and Lissa also said she had a great time.  Success!  My mom did most of the planning (food, drinks, decor, etc.) but the part that I planned was also a success… we played a “Julia trivia game” and I also got “Matt trivia” for Julia to fill out while people were answering the questions about her.  Looks like she knows him pretty well so I guess we all gave them our seal of approval… they are allowed to get married!  I am definitely looking forward to their wedding at the end of November.

Sunday we played at home for a bit before heading to the California Academy of Sciences to check out the Aquarium!  Julia liked the fish and really enjoyed just running around… at one point she started to get a bit fussy and asked for milk so I put her in the Ergo and she napped for an hour that way!  She fell asleep while we were checking out the White Alligator:   9.3.2014(5)

There was also a person dressed up as a White Alligator, which Julia absolutely loved! 9.3.2014(4)

We had a delicious lunch at the restaurant there before heading outside, where there was a band playing live music!  Julia had fun listening to the music and dancing!9.3.2014(3)

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After the aquarium it was time to head back home.  We flew back early Tuesday morning and got home yesterday before dinner.  Julia did really well on all four of our flights (we had a layover in Chicago both ways) and she even slept through the landing in San Francisco! 9.3.2014

The hardest part of all four flights was the time between landing and getting off the plane… once we land Julia is ready to go.  She does not want to wait our turn to get off the plane and starts to get very antsy about disembarking.  She screamed all four times until we were finally able to get off the plane and then it was very hard to settle her back down once we finally got the stroller and got into the terminal.

Luckily we are all done flying for a while… and the next time we fly with her she will be over 2 so she’ll have her own seat and we may even bring her carseat on the plane with us so that we don’t end up having to hold her the whole time.  It will be a completely different experience, I’m sure!

All in all, we had a wonderful visit.  It was great so see so many people and it was nice for Julia to get some time with my parents.  We’re back and have some fun things coming up including my birthday, Sesame Street Live, the Jewish holidays, a visit from Gagee (for Julia’s 2nd birthday), a trip to Vermont for Dana’s wedding, a visit from Bubbie & Zaydie for Halloween, and Julia’s first trip to an amusement park (we’re heading to Dutch Wonderland on October 18th).  I’m looking forward to some fun adventures in the weeks ahead!

 

It’s true… it won’t last forever!

My friend Kim, whose daughter Amelia is just a couple months older than Julia, wrote the most beautiful blog post on her blog.  It’s called, “It Won’t Last Forever” and is about the fact that all the daily stress of having a toddler is temporary and that childhood is just a temporary thing and that eventually we’ll be older adults, retired from our professions, no longer worried about bedtime routines, picky eating, temper tantrums or biting kids at daycare.  Her blog post is a good reminder to enjoy the little things each day: the hugs and kisses, the sweet way Julia says “I love you,” the way she says “Thank you, Daddy!” whenever Ken does something for her, the way she laughs hysterically at some of the silly sounds we make for her.  Kim’s post is a good reminder that you need to stop every now and then to just live in the moment rather than worrying about our daily tasks: making breakfast, making lunch, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, dropping Julia off at daycare, etc.

One of the things I most enjoyed about our time in Aruba is that, aside from when we were in our hotel room, we didn’t have access to the internet and our phones weren’t connected so we couldn’t get emails, texts or phone calls.  I liked being “unplugged” and just being together as a family.  Not being connected to the outside world meant that we were more connected to one another.  We were able to just watch Julia enjoy herself, play with her without being connected to a device.  We, as a family, need to be better about turning off our phones or putting them away and being in the present so that we can enjoy the little moments because what Kim said is true: it won’t last forever.  And I want to remember the fun parts of our days.  I don’t want my memory of this time to be of doing dishes and laundry, I want it to be of playing with Julia, singing songs, doing puzzles together, drawing pictures, and playing on the playground.  Thank you, Kim, for that important reminder.

Family Trip to Aruba!

Warning: This is going to be a picture heavy post!

Late last night, we got back from a wonderful and relaxing family trip to Aruba.  Ken’s parents have a timeshare with the Marriott which they haven’t been using as much recently since they bought a second home in Florida, and which they are able to trade in for pretty much any Marriott Vacation Club location in the world!  They were nice enough to gift us, for our anniversary, a week in Aruba!  We had a bunch of unused points on Southwest so we didn’t have to pay for airfare, either!  All we had to pay for was food and activities on the Island.

This was our first real family vacation, just the three of us going somewhere not to see family.  It was necessary and so nice to spend time together without any agenda or responsibilities during the week.

We left EARLY Monday morning (our flight was at 6:30 AM which meant we left the house around 4!)  Julia did surprisingly well despite being woken up way before her normal wake-up time.  We had a quick layover in Orlando and then boarded our flight for Aruba!  After a frustrating time checking in for the flight and getting Julia’s carseat (which got lost and didn’t show up until the next day!) we finally made it to our hotel, the Marriott Surf Club.  We had a beautiful view from our room! 8.18.2014(46)

The hotel is very family friendly… there are two big pools, a lazy river, a water slide, tons of kids activities throughout the day, movie nights, a beautiful beach, etc.  It’s also close to a lot of the activities that are available on the water and it’s a pretty short walk from a commercial stretch with lots of restaurants, shops, and a couple of malls.

Our first day there we got settled into our room and then headed down to the pool to relax a bit.  Julia apparently finds the, sun, wind and sound of water to be very relaxing as she took several naps throughout the week right next to the pool!  8.18.2014(44)

We took her around the lazy river a few times: 8.18.2014(45)

and we introduced her to the beach for the first time!  8.18.2014(43)

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At first she was a little afraid of the waves but after a while she figured out that they weren’t too scary and she absolutely LOVED playing in the sand!

Once we got Julia’s carseat, we were able to relax a little more and really enjoy ourselves!  Ken had been to Aruba before (this was my first time in the Caribbean!) so he knew that we wanted to get a rental car.  We were very glad to have it since it gave us the freedom to explore the island without having to get taxis each time we wanted to leave the resort.  We explored on the Northshore of the island a bit, where there were some old ruins: 8.18.2014(41)

a lovely little church: 8.18.2014(40)

some beautiful views of beaches/rocks (though the waves on the Northshore are much rougher so you can’t really go in the water to swim):8.18.2014(23)

 

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and Phillips Animal Garden, which was probably the highlight of the trip as far as Julia was concerned.  She has absolutely no fear around animals and had so much fun feeding the animals.  She especially loved giving carrots to the goats.  As soon as she fed a carrot to a goat, she would turn around and ask for another carrot.  She’d go right up to them, stick the carrot in their mouth and then do a little dance of excitement about having fed the goat.  It was pretty adorable! 8.18.2014(39)

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They had all kinds of animals there including camels, donkeys, cows, parrots, snakes, pigs, ferrets and many others.  The goats were probably the biggest hit for Julia! 8.18.2014(35)

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We also visited a Donkey Sanctuary but for some reason Julia wasn’t as into the donkeys as she was the goats… I think she liked the goats were closer to her size! 8.18.2014(18)

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One of the days, we took a drive through Aruba’s National Park.  There were a couple of caves we stopped to explore, and it was fun to just see all the scenery in the Park!  If we go back to Aruba some day (which I hope we do!) it would be great to get out and hike around a bit but with Julia it was a little hard to get in and out of the car.  The next time we go we’ll also try to get a car that’s 4-wheel drive so we can go off-roading and head down to the Natural Pool.  This time though, the caves were pretty cool!  8.18.2014(15)

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Another big hit with Julia was the Jolly Pirates boat trip that we did… Ken had been on this pirate ship one of the last times he was in Aruba with his family and he remembered it being tons of fun.  We had also heard from other people that it was a good thing to do with kids.  Julia did have a really good time… they played music the whole time so she loved dancing! 8.18.2014(25)

and the movement of the boat even put her to sleep for over an hour! 8.18.2014(28)

Ken & I also got to go snorkeling, which was tons of fun! 8.18.2014(26)

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Sadly we didn’t get any pictures of me all trussed up in my snorkeling gear but we did get a beautiful family picture on the boat! 8.18.2014(22)

and I got to wear my new beach hat! 8.18.2014(29)

Back at the resort, Julia really loved the iguanas that we found all over the place! 8.18.2014(32)

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One day she even got to feed them!  Just like with the goats, she had no fear and just went right up to them to hand them lettuce to eat.

Of course Aruba has some must-see tourist attractions including the California lighthouse: 8.18.2014(9)

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There were birds flying all around the area where the lighthouse is, and Julia had tons of fun chasing them and yelling “come birds!”  8.18.2014(14)

 

A lot of time was also spent playing in and around the pool.  Julia woke up each morning, looked out the window and pointed out the water (which she still calls “agua”) then started pulling at her clothes indicating she wanted to take them off.  She would pick out her swimsuit, ask to put on her hat and her “agua shoe-ah” (water shoes) and then we’d get ready to go down to the pool! 8.18.2014(20)

We had a few nice dinners out: 8.18.2014(33)

and Julia learned to eat directly from an apple: 8.18.2014(31)

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and she also learned to do the splits… a trick we didn’t know she was capable of! 8.18.2014(19)On our last day in town, we had to take a picture of the “I love Aruba” sign: 8.18.2014(5)

and one last picture in front of the hotel: 8.18.2014(4)

and of course we were sad to leave (though apparently unless she’s actually sad, Julia can’t make a sad face!): 8.18.2014(6)

Customs and immigration were quite the ordeal and Julia was an absolute nightmare on the plane from Aruba to Orlando but late last night we finally made it home and we were glad to have made it safely (Julia even slept through the landing in Baltimore!)8.18.2014(2)

 

Today we had to come back to reality, back down from our vacation cloud… we both went back to work and Julia went back to school but today was her first day in her new classroom!  So here, I present to you, her first day of school picture for the 2014-2015 school year!

8.18.2014

 

Visitors from New Orleans!

Last weekend we had some visitors from New Orleans! One of Ken’s Mason brothers, Ed, came with his wife, Susan, for a nice long weekend visit to Baltimore. Susan had been here before but this was Ed’s first time in Baltimore. Ed is a big Cardinals fan and since the Cardinals were in town we took advantage and went to not one but TWO O’s vs. Cardinals games.

Friday night we went to the game and left Julia home with a babysitter. We had a great time cheering on the O’s! 8.18.2014(56)Ken & I left the game happy because the O’s won, but Ed & Susan were not as pleased.  8.18.2014(57)

After the game there was a beautiful Orioles 60th Anniversary Celebration and Fireworks Display.  They brought back a bunch of the Orioles Hall-of-Famers so it was very special to see them all on the field together.

Saturday we spent the early part of the afternoon exploring… we went to Faidley’s for lunch and showed Ed & Susan the Inner Harbor.  Julia was a bit of a mess that day but she still had a good time at the game.  She also loved playing at the Splash Pad at the Inner Harbor.  She liked the “Wild Bill” hats they gave out at the game! 8.18.2014(54)

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and she was very excited to meet the Oriole Bird! 8.18.2014(52)

Her attitude toward the Bird has changed drastically over the last year or so… when we went to FanFest before the season started, Julia was terrified of the Bird but over the past several months she has slowly warmed up to him and this time when she saw him she jumped up and down shouting “Oriole bird!”  She gave him a high five but she didn’t want to get too close to him.  I love how she recognizes the Oriole bird so whenever she sees someone wearing an Oriole shirt/hat with the bird on it, she says “Orioles!”  Then she will occasionally add in a little cheer of “Go Orioles!”

It was really nice having Ed & Susan visit since it was like having a cool Aunt & Uncle in town.  Julia liked them right away… 8.18.2014(55)

and they brought a bunch of treats (spices mostly!) from New Orleans!

Sunday before they had to leave town, we took them for a visit to Fort McHenry since Ed is a big history buff just like Ken! 8.18.2014(48)

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Julia didn’t have the patience to sit through the educational video but she had a great time running around outside!

After Ed & Susan left, Ken finally hung up the swing that Bubbe & Zaydie bought for Julia and she absolutely LOVED it! 8.18.2014(49)

8.18.2014(50)After swinging and dinner it was time for an early bedtime for Julia so we could pack and get ready for our trip!

 

What does Daddy do?

In the past few days we’ve made a couple of additional meals from Blue Apron and all three meals we’ve made have been delicious.  A couple nights ago we made this Pan-Seared Salmon with Fennel & Heirloom Potato Salad which was fantastic! BA

And then last night we made Trofie Pasta with Golden Garlic & Heirloom Tomatoes, which was also a big hit!  I didn’t get a picture of the pasta since we started to gobble it all up as soon as it was ready but we served it to our friends Ed & Susan who are visiting from New Orleans and everyone enjoyed it!  On the side we had a salad with Sunflower greens and grape tomatoes, as well as some garlic bread and then for dessert we had a Carrot Cake from Whole Foods.

In the past few days, Julia’s started answering the question, “what does Daddy do at work?” by saying “Eye doctor.”  We got it on video and it is possibly the cutest thing ever!  Sometimes she just says, “eyes,” so I’ll prompt her… “Eye what?” and then she says, “Eye doctor.”  Too cute!

And on another note… today is a big day for Julia.

She’s 22 months old today!  (I CANNOT believe that she will be 2 in just two months.  That is insane.)  For comparison, here’s a photo comparing her at 10 months on August 8th last year (at my parents’ house) and at 22 months on August 8th this year.  8.8.2014(4)

 

It’s also a big day for  her because it’s her last day of this school year!  She started on August 19th last year and today’s her last day in her current classroom with the teachers she’s been with since she was 10 months old!  Daycare closes next week for “summer cleaning” and then when we return from our trip she’ll be moving up to the next class with new teachers, new kids, new toys, etc.  She’ll also stop sleeping in a crib at daycare and will start sleeping on a cot.  And she’ll be bringing a lunch box with her to school each day!  Here she was on her first day and her last day of school: 8.8.2014(3)

She’s gone from not even crawling to running all over the place.  From just beginning to babble to speaking in 2-3 words phrases.  From not rolling over to never staying still.  So much has changed in the last year, it’s unbelievable!

A Blue Apron Recipe: West African Vegetable and Peanut Stew

I recently heard about Blue Apron, a service much like Stitch Fix in that you can sign up to receive boxes as frequently or as infrequently as you like.  The difference is that the boxes from Blue Apron contain the ingredients for 3 meals designed to feed 2, 4 or 6 people.  You can sign up either for vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals and you can decide each week after seeing the recipes whether you want to receive a box or not.  If you opt to receive a box, you will receive the ingredients portioned out in the right amounts for the recipe in a refrigerated box and you get a nice little recipe card that shows you how to prepare the meal.

We have not actually signed up for Blue Apron but it’s definitely intriguing in that it takes the planning and shopping out of the equation (the two hardest parts of cooking, especially when you have a busy and active toddler at home!).  They pick the recipes, do the shopping and send you the ingredients.  All you have to do is follow the recipe and cook a delicious home-cooked meal!  Since we are interested in maybe looking into signing up, we decided to try out some of their recipes to see how they are.  I had heard from a couple friends who are signed up that the amount of prepwork they require is overwhelming for a mid-week meal but since Ken & I often enjoy making complicated meals I figured we might not mind the prep-work.  The one problem I foresee is that they don’t guarantee that you’ll have leftovers since the meals are perfectly portioned for 2 people, which means you still have to think about what to cook 4 other nights of the week.  I love me some good leftovers so that might be problematic.

Last night I made a West African Vegetable Stew with Peanuts and we served it over Israeli CousCous.  Here is the recipe, with my own changes added in!

  • 1 3/4 cups of Israeli couscous
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Small Piece Ginger
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Scallion
  • 1 Small Eggplant
  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1 14.5-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Broth + 2.25 Cups of Vegetable Broth
  • 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter

First, toast Israeli couscous in a medium pot over medium-high heat in Olive Oil until the pearls start to brown/toast a little bit.  Once they have started to toast, add 2.25 cups of vegetable broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil turn heat down to low, cover and simmer 8-10 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Be sure to check frequently and stir to make sure the couscous does not burn to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables:  Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger. Peel and large dice the onion. Slice the scallion. Large dice the eggplant. Peel and medium dice the sweet potato. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then crosswise into half moons.

To cook the vegetables: In a large pot, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the onion and sweet potato. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion softens. Stir in the ginger, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 3 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, and peanut butter.  Stir until combined.  Simmer 10 to 11 minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked through, stirring occasionally.BA2

Serve Stew over Cooked Israeli couscous and garnish with the scallions!  BA1

This dish was different from a lot of dishes we make in that it was vegetarian and we didn’t feel like it was missing anything.  Sometimes we’ll make a vegetarian dish and feel like it would have been better with chicken/meat/fish added in but this held its own.  The flavors were spectacular and ones that we are not used to working with often.  I really liked this dish and will definitely make it in the future.  It seems versatile in that other vegetables could easily be added to it, depending on what’s in season.  I also got the sense that some stew meat or chicken might be delicious added in as well.

We intend to try a few more Blue Apron recipes before committing to anything but so far this one was definitely a hit!  An added bonus is that this dish did make enough to keep for leftovers for the week.  Ken brought some for lunch today and I’ll likely have some tomorrow.

Petite Lemon!

Back around the time of Julia’s birthday, we decided to buy Julia a growth chart!  Ken’s parents offered to buy us one and we just needed to pick one out.  Having had luck with some of the shops on Etsy, I decided to go there to take a look.  I happened upon a shop called Petite Lemon which had some very cute designs!  I liked that it was based in my own hometown of San Francisco and I read through some of their previous reviews and saw that everyone had been very happy with their work.  The decor in Julia’s room is mostly purple so I was looking for something that would complement the other things in there… and I found this adorable Growth Chart with giraffes on it (you may not know this about me, but giraffes are my favorite animal!)! gc

I was in luck because it came in purple too, so we ordered it and had it personalized with Julia’s name on it!  We wanted it to be seen and not hidden away in her room so we hung it on the wall just outside her room, at the top of the stairs in our house.  Julia loves backing up to it to get measured.  We’ve been trying to measure her once a month and it’s amazing to see how much she grows and how quickly!

A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture on Instagram, and tagged #PetiteLemon in the photo!GC2

Well the shop owner contacted me to ask if they could feature the photo in their own blog and write a little about me and Julia!  Today they posted a lovely blog entry all about us!  Here’s the link where you can check it out: Petite Lemon Blog Post.

Pretty cool, huh?!