Toddler Paradise + A Bounce House Giveaway!

Sometimes, with little kids, I'm not sure what's more exciting - the anticipation/opening/setting up of a gift, or the actual gift itself. Let's be honest, it's probably usually the anticipation (or even just the box it came in), but when I pulled out the inflatable Jr. Jump N Slide Bouncer from the generous folks at Little Tikes in front of Eli and all his cousins, mass chaos, laughter, screaming, jumping and dancing broke out - and it didn't stop all weekend. 

We set the bounce house up in the living room of my parent's house one late afternoon as the kids were starting to get a bit restless from being inside all day - and it was the perfect way to keep them all happy through the witching hour until dinnertime. I don't know about yours, but my toddler turns on his destroyer-mode around 4 p.m. every day and doesn't turn it off until bedtime. Now multiply that by seven cousins under three - this bounce house keeping them happy was a gift from heaven that day. 

And while I didn't get pictures of it, it also kept them happy the next day, and the next day, and the next day. 

And when we put balls in it and an found and adult who was willing to retrieve them every time they were thrown out AND throw them back?

This bounce house became a bonafide toddler paradise.

And today I'm giving away one of these to all of you! This is the last giveaway in my series with the awesome folks at Little Tikes, and we are going out with a BANG - I'm so excited that one of you will have the chance for your kiddos to bounce around in one of these too. Just fill out the widget below and I'll announce the winner right back here next Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

*And if you're curious like I was - yes, it will fit in a normal-sized basement (Er, well any larger room with minimal furniture.), or at the very least, would be a great toy to blow up outside on special days. And all you do is plug it in and it blows up in about 30 seconds - and it folds up smaller than a packed-up tent for storage. It's amazing. 

This giveaway is now closed, the winner is Heidi Hicks. Heidi, please check your email to claim your prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worth Sharing

I'm a minimalist when it comes to beauty routines and beauty products. Sure, I like the results when I (or rather, someone else) takes the time - I'm always impressed at how good my hair dresser can make my hair look with all their products and tools, but honestly, I just don't want to spend the time or the money on it. That's why I liked this post about what products you should invest in, and what you can live without.

Remember when I wrote about working with an interior designer, Ann Golliher? And remember the magic she worked with my living and dining room? Well her new website is up for her company Gaddere, along with her awesome portfolio - go check it out and then hire her - you won't regret it!

Fifteen celebrity chef cooking tips. Love these kind of articles, although I rarely remember them. But usually one or two tips will stick around, so I'll count it as a win.

It's a little long, so you should probably skip ahead in a few parts, but this video showing the "emotions of Pixar" was really impressive. And makes me want to watch Finding Nemo again. I can't wait until Eli can start watching more of these movies, bur right now, his little heart is so sensitive, I don't think he's ready. I mean, he burst into tears every time he sees an exciting preview or commercial with some random cartoon character being chased.

Is the government watching your every move on the internet? Though we've made progress, oh yes, yes they are.

Have you heard of "Wife Bonuses?" Apparently they're the new thing for SAHMs - although I prefer just keeping the joint checking account.

An awesome online shopping guide you should check out, if you're in the market for well, anything to do with home decor.

I am not really that good at sewing and I'd definitely be terrified to ever even attempt quilting. But this type of quilt is my kinda style and the results are so cute too!

"Here, Just Little More Water" + Water Table Giveaway!

These days, I am all about figuring out good ways for the kids to be near me, but be happy without me so I can get some work done as we get settled into our new house. The warm weather helps a ton - why is is that kids always seem happier doing, oh I don't know, ANYTHING, when they're outside? 

Here's Colette, absolutely loving tummy time, just because she's outside: 
And if you add water? Oh my word, a toddler is happy and kind and not fussy, for like, a 1/2 hour - which is basically a 1/2 day in mom-time. And this summer, Eli is loving his new water table from Little Tikes - last year I just used a bucket and some plastic cups, so this is a major upgrade for the kid. 
His favorite thing is either A) shooting the plastic "water animals" (fish/turtle/frog/etc.) off the catapult as far as he can.

Or B) scooping up the water and watering the flower pots. He helped me plant some flowers last week and is obsessed with watching them grow into "big boys." He tells them, "Here, just little more water. There. Grow into big boy! There." And goes slowly back and forth, back and forth from the backyard to the deck and up three stairs to water them - which is a long journey for a two year old trying to balance a cup of water! 

His little watering missions give me plenty to time to work on the house - like spray paint our sliding door handles (Don't worry, I was far away from the kids and down wind of them.) or do other projects that I can bring outside - totally worth the soaked shirt and shorts, am I right?

And today, I'm super excited to be giving away one of these water tables to one of you and your kiddos, so you can get some stuff done (or take a nap in the yard, both are very productive options for a mom, mind you). I'll announce the winner right back here next Monday, June 15. Just enter using the widget below!
*This giveaway is now closed. The winner of the giveaway is Kaylee Wilson. Kaylee, check your email to claim your prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Colette - 5 Month Update

Naps: Two to three naps a day. One, two hour in the morning; one two to three hour in the afternoon and a short 1/2 hour in the evening.
Feeding: Formula. Four 6 oz. bottles every four hours during the day, and one 3 oz bottle at 10 p.m.
Clothing: Three, six and nine month, depending on the item
Bedtime: 6:30 - 7 p.m.

Colic/Reflux Update: This girl is completely unpredictable - she doing AMAZING this month, but I have no expectations for how long it will last. She is SO happy and normal - well, better than normal, she's crazy easy, even easier than Eli was at this stage - WHAT. Plus, we were able to take her from 3 ml of Ranitidine a day down to 2 ml a day mid-way through the month with no problems. We now give 1 ml to her when she wakes (around 7 a.m.) and one at bedtime (around 7 p.m.) I hesitate to say it, but it really seems like the colic is clearing up and the reflux is going away - although there is so much of me that is telling myself not to believe it so I don't get my hopes up!

Eating: Long story, super short: I'm no longer breastfeeding Colette. I stopped last Friday and haven't looked back. She was rapidly losing weight at each of her monthly appointments - and as I mentioned in my last update - was crazy fussy at four months for reasons I couldn't really figure out. When the doctor asked me how breastfeeding was going, I told him I thought it was going well. Colette loved to nurse, it didn't hurt, it was easy for us. But he suggested supplementing, "just to see what happened."  

Maybe it was due to the stress of everything we've been through, or maybe because for the first three months of her life she didn't eat for eight hours straight and so I never established a great supply, or maybe it was one of the other billions of reasons breastfeeding doesn't work out for moms, but the day I started supplementing with formula, Colette was happy as a clam and slept like a rock star. Three weeks later, I quit nursing all together. I couldn't do what I did last time - one foot out, one foot in. There's part of me that's sad about it, I wanted it to work, I really did. I mean I literally nursed while I signed the closing papers on our new house I was so committed to "feeding on demand" and making it work, but sometimes, it's just not meant to be. Maybe I'll write about it more, maybe I won't - right now, I honestly just don't want to think about it and I'm totally okay with that. 

Pretty quickly, I was able to get Colette on the same four hour schedule Eli was on at this age. She takes four 6 oz bottles during the day (7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.), but she does still take a 10 p.m. "dream feed" of 3 oz, that I'm just starting to think about dropping. 

Since I introduced formula, Colette has become a great sleeper. She takes two, two hour naps (sometimes even three hours!) a day, and one quick 1/2-1 hour nap before bed. We typically wake her for the 10 p.m. feed (low lights, no talking, no diaper change, just quietly give her the bottle) and then put her immediately back to bed. She usually wakes around 7 a.m., but there have been some mornings she'll go until 8 a.m. Sometimes she does wake around 5 a.m., but usually she's either talking for about 10 minutes and goes back down, or she'll cry for just a couple minutes and fall back asleep. It's weird and I hope it stops soon.

It is getting more difficult for her to sleep in her car seat, which makes going out and about in the morning much more difficult, so I have a feeling I'll be in "nap jail" pretty soon, but that's okay, because sleep is ALWAYS worth it. I have found that the sling works well when she's super tired, often she'll take a quick cat nap in it and then be ready to go for a little longer, or she'll at least be content in it. We went to a wedding few weeks ago and I assumed she'd just sleep in the sling when it got near bedtime - nope, that girl stayed wide awake for two hours, just hanging out in the sling with her big eyes wide open. She didn't cry once - just watched all the action from her little perch. On the way home, I expected to pay for our actions, but she fell right to sleep - I was shocked!

This month, I finally felt like I started to get to know who Colette is. Not just because she's getting older and more of her personality is developing, but mostly because I actually got to enjoy that personality because she wasn't crying! This month, I felt like she really started to feel more like a baby, rather than a newborn. She started getting a lot stronger, she loves to sit in the bumbo and watch everything going on and can make it in there for about 10 minutes before she starts to slump over. She also started hanging out in a Johnny Jump Up with extra support from a few blankets - she doesn't really do much, but Eli likes to go over there and "help" her jump and sorta swing her around with me yelling, "Gently Eli, GENTLY!" the entire time. I let him do it because Colette seems to like it, she always gets this huge grin on her face as she's being swung around. 

It's also fun to see Colette respond to us so much more. She turns her head when I speak and makes eye contact immediately, she laughs at pretty much anything - I mean, I just have to say her nickname, "Coco!" kinda louder than I normally and she giggles. She's an easy sell. She also gets on lots of monologues, often she'll be really quiet for a long time, then just start talking for 10 minutes straight - looking right at you with the most serious expression on her face. She can nearly completely roll over from back to front, usually she's reaching for a toy or trying to see Eli. She still tends to enjoy just falling asleep on her tummy, rather than attempting to roll over. She's way more grabby this month too - I can't even open the mail in front of her without having the papers ripped off from her crazy fingers and sent straight to her mouth.
This month, she finally has enough dexterity to hold a toy and chew on it in her mouth for a while, so she has begun a quick love affair with Sophie the Giraffe. Eli never really took to it, so I'm glad to see one kid taking to the expensive toy. She also loves to be tossed in the air, tickled, held upside-down and just generally doing anything a little rough/crazy. She'll be fussing and all I have to do is give her a little toss and she starts cry/laughing and eventually laughing all the way, it's both awesome and terrifying to have a child like that. She also still really likes her carseat, the sling and baths, oh the baths. I think she'd stay in a bath all morning if I let her. 

Colette is not a fan of being in one position for too long, so she's on a constant rotation of being held/tummy/Bumbo/jumper/sling/play mat when she's awake. I feel like I just go through a checklist each time she's awake of the same five "activities."  She's still crazy strict with us about bottle temperature and this girl is NOT a fan of pear juice. She had some issues with constipation when we added formula to her diet, so I was giving her some diluted pear juice to keep things moving, and she would make the most disgusted face and let it dribble down the side of her mouth, avoiding swallowing it at all cost. Which is so weird because she takes her Ranitidine just fine - and that stuff is TERRIBLE. 

Momma/Daddy Update:
This was a great month for us - obviously, Colette's temperament plays a huge part in how each moth goes, and with her being, well, pretty much a dream baby, it was a great month. Honestly, Colette was just so much fun to hang out with and care for, I just wanted to spend all my time with her! There were a few weeks there while I was supplementing/pumping/weaning where I felt stretched with time quite a bit, but once I totally threw in the towel on nursing, I gained A LOT of freedom. Stopping nursing was the only "emotional" thing this month, but honestly, it wasn't even that big of deal - I'm sorta waiting to see if it'll bug me down the road or not, but for now, I'm enjoying the indifference. 

With Colette on a four hour schedule, I felt like the kids and I were able to get into a good rhythm and I was able to get at least one hour of overlapping naptime (sometimes 2 hours!) each day, which was huge for being able to get things done in the new house and just stay sane. We also sent her off to nursery at a church we're trying out for the first time this month, and that was a great break too - and honestly, made a difference in even how much we were able to enjoy "church shopping." 

It's also been just so fun to watch the relationship between Eli and Colette develop. Obviously, she loves it anytime Eli gets into her line of vision, and Eli has taken a lot more interest in her - wanting to "feed" her, letting me know when she has a "Big poop!" and attempting to help me put on a new diaper, making sure she has toys at all times, or just generally letting me know what Colette needs - because he can read her mind you know. Siblings are the best. 

T-Ball Memories + A Giveaway!

Last week we spent some much needed time in my hometown back in Iowa - we hadn't been back for more than six months, and Colette had yet to make her inaugural trip - so it was long overdue. It was a great break from all the move-in chaos back in Chicago and we had an awesome time catching up with family and a few friends while we were back. 

My parents live in an old 1920's school that they converted into their home a few years ago. I've said time and time again that I WILL blog about it, but I always forget to nab photos when I'm back. Suffice it to say it's pretty big - this is no one-room school house - this is a 33,000 square foot, three story school, complete with massive gym and stage. It's the perfect place for seven grandkids (going on nine!) all under three years old to go crazy in. 

A few weeks back, the folks at Little Tikes sent me a handful of toys for Eli (And Colette! Okay, not really, but my mommy-heart just feels bad leaving her out.) to try out, and one of them was the Little Tikes TotSports T-Ball Set. As soon as we planned our trip to Iowa I knew we had to pack it to get a little game going with the cousins at the school. At first we pulled it out in my parents living room, and even though it's HUGE, pretty quickly we figured we should move outside or we'd have to keep chasing the balls into different under all the furniture and into different rooms. 

So we went outside, but let's be honest, at first Eli and his cousin totally got distracted by Papa's skid-loader - this is the stuff little boy's dreams are made out of folks: 

I believe they were building a zoo for a T-Rex and while Mater and Lightening McQueen picked them up some birthday cake to celebrate. 

Totally makes sense. 

Eventually we convinced them to come play t-ball with us. Abram, my nephew who is nearly three was AWESOME. Seriously #proudauntmoment over here. He loved setting up the ball "just so" then hitting it as hard as he could. 

Eventually Hannah and Eli each took a turn (they're six weeks apart, and both just recently turned two), and they could. not. wait. They were all about throwing the ball around, trying to get it to balance on the tee and swinging the bat, but honestly, they mostly just hit the tee. Or the ground. Or my leg. Or their face. 

But they tried, and that's all a parent could ever want, right?

So eventually we just demoted the two year holds to fielders so the pro could get his practice in.

But because we always made them stand so far away (Safety first!) they got bored pretty quickly and eventually just walked around and made rock piles. This is obviously not portrayed in the above photo, which is why Abram is patiently waiting for them to sloooooowly toddle their little bodies away. 

Give them six months or a year and I'm sure they'll trade their rocks in for t-balls, but for now, I'd say two year olds are better off as benchwarmers. But Abram, at three, LOVED it and couldn't get enough. I got my exercise for the WEEK in just shagging balls for him while he laughed and shouted about how far he hit ball.

This t-ball set is one of those toys that it seems like every one has a childhood memory from playing, and I'm so excited to give Eli a few of his own as he grows up. And get ready, because Little Tikes is giving one away to one lucky Oakland Avenue reader, so your kids can make memories around it too. The giveaway will be open until Wednesday, June 3, and will be announced on this page on June 4, so check back here to see if you won!

Just fill out the widget below to win!

>>> Giveaway now closed. The winner is Rachel Murphy! Rachel, check your emails to claim your prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Colette - Four Month Update

Just FYI: this post is long overdue - Colette is over five months old now, so I'm going to be working the next couple weeks to get her updates caught up!
Naps: Two to three naps a day. On a good day: one, two hour in the morning; one two to three hour in the afternoon and a short 1/2 hour in the evening.
Feeding: Exclusively breastfeeding. Typically nurses seven times in 24 hour period. 
Clothing: Three month bottoms, six month tops.
Bedtime: 6:30 - 7 p.m.

Colic/Reflux Update: We took a bit of a back track this month in the colic/reflux department. The last time I wrote about it, she had been on a really great two week stretch, but this month, I'm not sure what happened. She started waking more in the night, having more evening crying spells and just generally being fussier during the day. It was still nothing compared to how she used to be, but I started having some pretty bad flashbacks when she'd start to rev up at night. It's hard, because part of me thinks it might just be her growing / a wonder week / the four month sleep regression - as any momma knows, the answer to sleep issues and fussiness is never really figured out - so I'm hesitant to say it's for sure colic or reflux, but it seems to fall into that category. One big thing I do notice that's different is she can be calmed down by my presence and if not, then by nursing. Which is a HUGE change.  

We are still giving her 1ml of Ranitidine, every 8 hours at 7 a.m., 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. I've heard many parents try to wean their babies off Ranitidine at three months, six months and a year, just to see if the reflux has cleared up. Well, one night Eli threw away Colette's medicine without Mike or I knowing, when it came time for her 10 p.m. dose we tore apart the temp apartment looking for it and couldn't find it. The next day, it dawned on us to check the complex dumpster for the trash we had taken out, so Mike climbed in there and sure enough, there was Colette's little red bottle. All this to say, we had an unintentional weaning around 3.5 months and it did not go well, so we're going to wait until 6 months. 

Eating:  I've still been trying to work with the same schedule I listed here, but honestly, she's sorta all over the place. I'm fearful my supply is low in the evenings, because for the first three months of her life, she rarely ate from 4 p.m. - Midnight - maybe that's part of why she's fussy? In addition, she's starting to want to nurse at 1 a.m., 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. (ish) and taking a pretty full feed each time, which is pretty frustrating. Often, I'll try to hold her off with the pacifier, but when she wakes/fusses after 15 minutes each time, I know it's just easier to feed her and get some rest, rather than continue to play the pacifier game. I'm still exclusively nursing, but may try supplementing in the evenings, just to see if she'll take it. 

Sleeping: One big change this month: I finally dropped the swaddle about halfway through the month! Thanks to all of your recommendations, we switched to the Zip-a-dee-zip. The transition was totally seamless. She had been busting out of the swaddle a few times a night, which always required me to wake her up even more by redoing it, having to re-velcro the thing which is SO LOUD. It's awesome to not have to worry if she's waking because she's out of the swaddle. It's so frustrating when you feel like the waking could have been avoided because of a better system!

But that problem eliminated, Colette is still a bit of a tough sleeper. She almost always takes a great nap in the morning, whether we're out and about and she's in her car seat or if we're home and she's in her bassinet, she usually sleeps the full two hours. But in the afternoon it's a whole different story. She still falls asleep super easily, but sometimes she'll sleep for a half hour and just need the pacifier put in a few times to make it a full two hours, and sometimes there's no way she's going back down, so I just get her up to hang out with me. It's tough to figure out what she needs since she's not on a very consistent schedule - I haven't been nearly as committed to it as I was with Eli. There's just too much going on and with Eli around, well, even with the best intentions, Colette's schedule is a little crazy. As I mentioned above, at night she's all over the place. She goes down around 6:30 or 7 p.m., we wake her at 10 p.m. for a feed and medicine, and then all bets are off as to how the rest of the night will go, but there's usually three to seven wakings in there - and for the record, I don't believe this is because of the zip-a-dee-zip, because this is LESS than when she was swaddled!
For as difficult as Colette can be, she is still just the sweetest little baby. Honestly, she sorta has a split personality. She can be really difficult when the fussiness kicks in in the evening, but most of the time, during the day, she is AMAZING. I get told all the time during the day, "Your baby is amazing! She's so quite and such a great sleeper!" And they're right! In the mornings when I'm out with other people, Colette does awesome in her carseat. But it's hard to know how to respond so I just smile and swallow and nod and RUN. I get what they're saying, but they have NO idea, and I don't want to explain. It's just - complicated. 

She's started to smile even more easily this month. I can just look at her from across the room and she'll light up like a Christmas tree. She still has the most amazing belly laugh, and I love how freely and easily it comes. She also loves to talk, coo and squeal, and I'm a little nervous she's going to be a screamer as every once in a while it'll be super high pitched for a loooooong time. She still loves watching her hands and enjoys her play mat, batting and grabbing at the hanging toys and trying to pull them into her mouth, though that skill still needs quite a bit of work. Speaking of mouthing things, that's pretty much her goal in life. When anything gets near her face her big eyes get even bigger and her mouth opens up so wide I think she could swallow me whole - it's clearly her mission to get that thing in her mouth so she can suck and chew on it. She is ZEROED IN, I tell ya.

She's hasn't rolled yet, but is still trying. She really enjoys tummy time, (Except right after she eats, maybe it's the reflux, I think it bothers her stomach and she always spits up a ton.) and often she'll lay there calmly watching Eli for up to 20 minutes. She's just started to be strong enough to sit up in the Bumbo, but only has about five to ten minutes in her before she slumps over. It's fun to have her sit by Eli and I for a few minutes, and Eli drags "Coco's chair" everywhere so she can "play righ' here by Eli." 

The biggest thing I've noticed about Colette is that she LOVES attention, but never really asks for it (Except at night - HA!) She's totally content to be a sideshow to Eli, but even if you just look at her she is SO happy. She is seriously the most adorable thing when she's just hanging out and you look over at her, tickle her or just talk with her - her smile is so huge and wonderful it honestly makes up for all the night craziness. She's also a bit of a thrill seeker. She loves to be thrown in the air, or rolled in our arms. With Eli, he would always get this terrified look on his face, but with Colette, it's one of the quickest ways to get a smile out of her. I have a feeling she's going to be a bit of a daredevil - eeek!

She still loves the bath, getting dressed, the carseat and being in the action by sitting in her bouncer or Bumbo. She's not as much of a fan of the pacifier this month, often she'll just roll it around in her mouth looking at me like, "What the heck is this thing?" so we'll see if she drops it soon like Eli did around this time. She is a bit of a Goldilocks, she's all about having things just so. In particular, bottle temperature, not to hot, not to cold, gotta get it just right for that girl to eat it.  She also likes her diaper changed on the regular, I have never seen a baby enjoy a fresh diaper as much as her!

Momma/Daddy Update:
This has been a more difficult month again. As usual, I know sleep plays a huge part in my attitude and perspective and it's been hard for me feeling like we've gone a few steps back in the sleeping department. I think the hardest thing is just wanting to "figure her out," but I know it can't be done - so why do I try? I don't know. We move into our permanent house next week and I'm nervous with how another big change (and lots of work with getting settled) will affect her. I think it will be good to have her in her own room, in a crib that's big enough for her (she has pretty much outgrown the travel bassinet!), in a space that I can "regulate" more.  

One thing I do notice is how much I can miss her in a day. Often by the time evening comes, even if we've had a rougher day, I just want to hold her and snuggle with her, which is kinda weird if you think about it. It's been so busy with getting the house ready for move-in, and of course, a toddler around, that I just don't have the time with her that I did with Eli. I've found myself wearing her more again just to have her close to me, and I truly do look forward to her feedings (when she takes them calmly) just for the one-on-one time. 

Honestly, it's hard not to wish away some of these tough days - and I'm having to make a conscious effort not to. But when she's not fussy, she is just pure sugar. I love her SO much and I have to remember the good moments with her in a day so I don't get too frustrated. I really believe she'll outgrow the fussiness and her true personality is what I see during her more calm hours. And it's honestly, THE BEST. I could just gobble her and her cuteness up when she's calm - I seriously believe God made her extra pretty and adorable just to help me get through the rough nights!