Thursday, December 10, 2015

Santa Visits

Much like I tend to do with photographers, I have shopped around for the best Santa in our 5 years of experience. Luckily, this year I believe I've finally settled on a photographer (or two) and also a favorite Santa.

While I won't go into my crazy reasonings for using so many different photographers (it is a me problem, I know this) I will tell you why I think we are settled on Santa #4. 

So! Santa #1. Charley was just a few months old at her first Christmas. I didn't love the idea of taking a tiny baby to the mall Santa that year in the middle of germy season so when I saw an event at the Melting Pot where you got chocolate fondue AND a personal visit with Santa I jumped on it. The only part I didn't like was that I had to take my own picture and I don't trust myself to take a good picture when I only have a couple chances. It didn't turn out that bad, but it still isn't my favorite.


The next year we tried out a mall Santa. The mall we went to is a smaller mall that is not in Charlotte but one of the suburbs. The mall is generally pretty slow and we also went pretty early in December as well so there was little to no wait at all. This was the year of "stranger danger" in Charley's development, so we got a crying Santa visit picture. However, Santa, in all your crying baby experience you haven't figured out how to grin and bear it for the photo op?


In 2013 we went back to the same small-mall Santa. Maybe his dazed and confused look was a fluke and we'd have better luck this year.


Ehhhh not so much. I just want a smile from the jolly ol' man, for goodness sakes!

A couple weeks later that same year we went to another Christmassy event that had another Santa you could visit and it was free with your admission. The room he was in was beautiful and he was such a nice Santa! BUT. Again with the take-your-own-picture thing which isn't my favorite.


Which brings us to Santa #4. He is at a very busy mall and I avoid any malls as much as I possibly can. For whatever reason though, last year we had to go to this mall  so this was totally a go-ahead-and-knock-out-the-Santa-visit-since-we'll-be-there visit. It was only November 29th, so just a couple days after Thanksgiving and much to our surprise, there was NO LINE! Hooray!


Look at the jolly smile! It was great! He spent time with her and talked to her and the picture came out great too.

So, this year we decided to go back to him. Last week we seemed to have something planned on every single day except Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, so we chose to knock out the Santa visit Tuesday evening. We all got home and had dinner and we got the girls dressed in their matching dresses (because I have to!) and headed to the mall. We took our time with dinner and all so it was a little later than we planned, but the mall is open until 9:00 so we would make it there in plenty of time. We got there at about 7:55 and made our way to see Santa. It was 8:00 on the dot as we walked up to the area and noticed the jolly old man was no where to be seen. His helpers looked to be shutting the cash register down and the calendar posted to our right said Santa was off duty as of 8:00 that evening. Ughhhhhhhhh. The little helper elves were very nice and felt bad and apologized but Santa was already off to feed the reindeer before bed and told us to come back tomorrow. You know - on WEDNESDAY, the ONLY other free day of the week. Sigh.

But we did it anyways because the next free day to go was a ways out. We put them back in their same outfits from the night before and decided to head straight to the mall once we met at home and have dinner afterwards in the food court. It worked out perfectly! There wasn't a single person in line again, either! We couldn't get Laney to smile while on Santa's lap, but she wasn't crying at all (I'm thinking next year for her crying year) and it was cute anyways.


And they gave access to the whole photoshoot this year instead of the one decided on shot, so even better. I love Charley's dimple and Laney's cheeks in this one.


Whew. That was a lot of (not needed) info about Santa visits. But there you go. We choose Santa #4! Hooray!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Laney: 7 Months

My goodness this little love of mine. She's the SWEETEST little baby & we all love her so.


7 months!

Guess what? Another good month in Laneyville. Not a whole lot new to report that has changed from last month, either.


She's still sleeping great and I've even figured out naps at home, too. She's taking 2 good naps each day (2-3 hours in the morning, 1-2 hours in the afternoon) and still sleeps the same at night - from about 9-6:30 on weekdays, 9-7:30/8 on weekends. She is also getting really attached to her lovey blankets. This is the same age that Charley got really attached to hers also and the love for them is still going strong 4 years later, so I'm prepared to see her little bunny blankets around for a long time. I always thought it was pretty odd how Charley sucked on the corners of her blankets to self soothe as I hadn't heard of or seen many other babies do that before. But Laney seems to be doing the same thing! She either finds the tag of them and sucks on that, or just grabs a corner and shoves it in her mouth just like her big sister does. Weird right? But hey, whatever works.

She does not sleep on me at all, except if she falls asleep after nursing and I remain COMPLETELY still. Even the slightest adjustment and she wakes up. So I tend to stay put for a few minutes just to soak up this sweetness since it is so few and far between. Darn independent babies.


We are doing 2 "solid" meals a day still this month. Still purees for the most part, but I do let her try tiny pieces of whatever we are having pretty often also. So far only pears remain on the yucky list. She's also working on that pincer grasp and feeding herself puffs and Cheerios. Nursing is still the same - once in the mornings and 3 times in the evenings. I'm down to just pumping once at work and I'm very ready to drop that too. She has gotten over her hate of formula which also helps me with the breakup with the pump. With Charley I'd already quit pumping at this point and was just nursing her when we were together so I bet I'll be doing the same with Laney very soon.


She's celebrated two of her first holidays this past month - Halloween and Thanksgiving. I tried to give her a few bites of a real Thanksgiving meal but she wasn't too interested. I tried giving her sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and macaroni but she wasn't really a fan of any of those yet.


She's still not very mobile. She doesn't really like to lay down much these days so she doesn't even roll much anymore. She prefers sitting so she just sits there. (Which, lets be honest, is the BEST part of babyhood as far as mobility goes. They are happy to sit and play play play!) She's starting to reach further and further for toys while sitting which I think I remember leading to crawling with Charley. I did break out the walker and she's had a tiny bit of practice in that. [What am I doing!? Encouraging mobility!?]


No teeth yet, either, but I am feeling pretty confident they will be here before the next monthly update.


In the nickname department, the names that John and I call her most often (besides Laney, of course) are: Laney Boo, Laney Bug, Shuggie, or just sweetie or baby. My sister calls her Squishy and my mom calls her McGillicuddy, which, has no meaning whatsoever but is just what came out one day and has stuck. (She calls Charley tootsie.)

Laney loves: baths, eating, her sister, laughing, swinging, jumping (in her jumperoo), being outside, and being tickled.

Laney's not a fan of: carseats, having her face wiped, or laying down to play.


She was 15 pounds 7 ounces a couple weeks ago and 26.75" long. In comparison, Charley was 14 pounds 6 ounces and 25 inches long at the same time. Laney has stayed about a pound and an inch larger than her sister since birth. At least they are consistent! She's still wearing 6-9 or 6-12 month clothing and a size 3 diaper.


I cannot get enough of her gummy WIDE open mouth smiles. Happy 7 months, doll baby!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Charley's Rapunzel Birthday Party

Oh, hi. You thought I forgot to post this didn't you? Well. I did. But I just remembered so let me finish this up and publish it 3 months later.

Charley's party theme for her 4th birthday was decided the day after her 3rd birthday party or soon thereafter. I kept thinking she may change her mind as the day grew nearer but she never wavered so Rapunzel it was. She threw around the idea of having a multiple princesses party (like wanting to also include Tiana and Ariel) but in the end it was easiest to just stick to the one princess and call it a day.

Charley was very adamant this year about inviting friends as well as family. Last year we did family only because I was in the first trimester and not feeling so hot so I thought that was a fair request from her for this year. She really loves her little friends too so I was happy to oblige to this request. I prefer an at home party so we picked a day and I made some invitations. Pinterest was my inspiration, of course. These took only a few minutes once I slightly altered a tower castle design that I purchased with my Silhouette machine.


Other stolen Pinterest ideas included braiding those cheap yellow tablecloths from the front door and down the sidewalk to mimic Rapunzel's hair. I don't think I even took a picture of that, but it was basically this. I also mimicked this and hung crowns with long "hair" attached by the doorway.


I have reused a grapevine wreath each year for Charley's parties also that originally was a wreath used at my baby shower. This year I added some braided yarn, flowers, and purple glitter letters to it, took a very washed out picture of it and called it a day.


One afternoon while perusing Pinterest looking for cake ideas, Charley wandered into the office. I was trying to find a simple Rapunzel design to draw onto the cake a la last year's Goofy cake, but Charley spotted something right then and INSISTED that be her cake. It was a Barbie cake using the Barbie Rapunzel doll. She loved it and was not backing down so I gave in. I decided we'd order cupcakes for our guests and I'd make this cake for her instead. I had experience in decorating a Barbie cake before as we (my sister and I) made similar cakes for my nieces' 5th birthday party years ago.


So, the night before her party I made her a Rapunzel cake just like those. And since my sister also had experience she came over to repay the favor from 6 years prior. I baked the cake in the Pampered Chef batter bowl and also made a small cake in a 9" round cake pan to give Rapunzel some more height so her hair wouldn't be dragging the ground. We iced the cake and then came time to add Rapunzel into her cake. We slid her in as gently as possible, but there was still some damage and she seemed to be leaning towards the right. I was worried about her slowly falling over and not making it through the night and the cake being RUINED in the morning, so we rigged up some yarn to go around her neck and hold her up which we tied to an upper cabinet's knobs. I can't remember if we made and aluminum foil dome to go around her or if we just left her out as is, but Rapunzel was literally hanging from a cabinet knob overnight. A little disturbing, but it worked! The next morning she was still standing and the cake looked great! Whew.


Charley requested pizza as her party food (which is odd because usually she doesn't even eat pizza if we get it - we always have to order pasta for her instead!) so that was very easy. My sister helped make a purplish punch and I had a few other little finger foods out also. I didn't bother with creative food labels this year. Easy, peasy.

As far as games go I planned on having two little activities. One was just going to be playing Hot Potato with one of those sticky lizards (Pascal!) while playing songs from Tangled, but just before we were to play the game I mentioned it to Charley and she FIRMLY PROTESTED against it. She seems to be moving out of the phase now, but at the time she was very much in a phase where she would have had a breakdown if she were to lose the game. I decided to scrap the game at that point. Not that we don't let her lose while playing games at home, but I figured there was no point in basically ensuring a meltdown at her own party. Little did I know that was to come a bit later anyways.

The other activity I planned was something I actually came up with all on my very own! Take THAT Pinterest! I (with the help of my dad and John) had a board cut and painted to look like a castle. Our deck on the back of our house is up very high since we have a walkout basement below. So, having a castle up on the deck made for the perfect "tower" from which to toss down our hair! I used more of the yellow plastic tablecloths from the dollar store and tied them end to end to make the hair. That was stapled onto the back of the castle board just below the notch, so that our hair wouldn't accidentally go flying down to the ground each time it was tossed over. As each guest tossed the hair down, a secret hair fairy down below attached a goody bag to the end of the locks and they would pull the hair back up over the castle board. It was easy and cute and the kids seemed to like it! Charley played with it a good bit after everyone left also. This cost us $2 (for 2 tablecloths) as the board and paint were already on hand. Yah!


I'm jumping around here as the goody bags were done at the very end of the party but oh well. So, the cake. As we were putting the candles in the Rapunzel cake we couldn't really find a good placement for them. They ended up sticking straight out of the front of Rapunzel's dress. As John starts to light the candles, I casually say something like "don't catch Rapunzel's hair on fire!" and Charley becomes terrified.


After the candles were lit and we all started singing Happy Birthday, it just went downhill fast. It was her party and she could cry if she wanted to, and she definitely did.


Sorry for the blurriness of those, but at that point I was struggling with continuing to take pictures of something we'd surely laugh at later, or going to comfort my poor baby. John ended up blowing out the candles for her and I put the camera down and went to comfort her. I am still glad I got a couple of pictures though - even if they are blurry! So yeah. No blowing out the candles for Charley! She still talks about this today 3 months later and how she does NOT want candles at her next party either. Maybe we'll get some battery powered tealights she can just turn off at the end of Happy Birthday. That will be exciting. 

After many of the guests had left John just could not take it anymore and wanted to give Charley her big gift from us that day. Her party was actually 6 days before her birthday as we were trying to avoid having a birthday party on Labor Day weekend so I had wanted to save her big gift for her actual birthday. But in the end it doesn't really matter WHEN she got it so I obliged and he rushed down to the basement to bring it up to her while a few friends were still over. 

It was worth it. This was as John was walking in with it: 


And then she and her buddies had so much fun trying it all out.


It was actually a really fun and low stress party! Yay for that! And most importantly, our sweet Charley Jane was as happy as she could be for most of the party. I hear though that is pretty indicative of four year olds though. And so far, 3 months into age 4, I tend to agree. But, it is still all worth it for this sweet face. 


Friday, November 13, 2015


It's nearly Thanksgiving already, but let's talk about Halloween, shall we?

Charley has been talking about what she wanted to be for Halloween since November 1st of last year. Disney princesses were talked about the most often, with Rapunzel obviously leading the pack. We (or, I. John just goes along with it and helps in the crafting.) really like to make Charley's Halloween costumes so I was dreading her choosing a Disney princess this year. We could definitely pull something together, but if you were to lay an actual dress-up princess dress next to one of our creations, she would undoubtedly choose the dress-up dress every time. So I just crossed my fingers things would change before Halloween was here.

At about a month pre-Halloween Charley was still very much leaning towards Rapunzel. I didn't want to tell her she couldn't be that but I was brainstorming ideas on how I could get her to change her own mind. She's very much like her daddy in that if she believes something was her idea she will get enthusiastic and excited about it. Now if it is a suggestion that you make to her, she's resistant. BUT! The way around that (and I have a decade's worth of experience with this thanks to her daddy!) is to plant seeds so you still get the ultimate outcome you want. Don't tell John my secrets. (Hi John!)

So, one day Charley was playing at her desk and I was perusing Pinterest. I typed in "DIY kids costumes" and marveled over some of the ideas. I then invited Charley over to look at the cute costume ideas too. And that's when she spotted Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon.

She LOVES these moves and the Netflix series too. She was sold! It was one of the first ones she saw but she kept coming back to it. Not even this octopus (which would have been my pick!) could sway her.

I was perfectly fine with her choice though. It was very much a DIY costume and it wasn't a Disney princess. (Which she dresses up as every single day of her life.) My tactics worked and she was excited too. In case you aren't familiar (which I don't think anyone at all we saw while trick-or-treating knew who she was), this is how Astrid looks in the movies.


In another interesting turn of events this year, I didn't wait until the absolute last second like in years past. Sure, there were things we still finished up on Halloween day itself, but it wasn't the whole costume that we completed at the last second. All of the sewing parts were done a couple weeks in advance, which John was very thankful about. Things always get a little stressy between us when I inevitably wait until the night before Halloween and I'm rushing him through stuff on the sewing machine. So he and I were both glad to get those parts done early.

So, with Charley being Astrid who is one of the dragon trainers in the movie, it meant Laney needed to be her dragon of course! Astrid's dragon is blue with yellow wings. Not wanting to spend a lot of time or money on a costume for Laney who isn't really trick or treating anyways, I was just going to get a blue zip-up hoodie and sew some yellow wings underneath the arms and add big eyeballs and horns to the hooded part. Done! But, about 10 days before Halloween the blog Hip2Save posted that Wal-mart had a dragon costume for only $5! I didn't like the one she shared, but after perusing around I found a blue dragon costume that even had the yellow wings for only $7. Sold. It wasn't much more than I'd spend on a jacket and supplies.

She had too much cheek to velcro the hat closed.

Back to Charley's costume. So we used a combination of a few different tutorials we found. In addition to the one up there, this one was really helpful too. Mostly everything we did came from something in one of those two tutorials. So, it definitely wasn't our own ideas, but I still think it came out great!


Most importantly, Charley loved it! I loved that it was a little out of character for her to NOT be something super girly and princessy.

We used these supplies:

  • An army green long-sleeved shirt from last year. The sleeves were too short for this year so it was a perfect free shirt to ruin. 
  • denim looking leggings
  • faux leather
  • elastic tape
  • black ink pad for "distressing" the metal spikes a bit
  • green duck fabric
  • 1 sheet of grey fun foam
  • 2 bags of Crayola model magic
  • leather roping
  • 1/8 yard faux fur
  • her regular boots
  • and at the last second we made the shield and axe from cardboard
Charley and I made the spikes from the model magic together. We let those dry overnight and the next day Charley painted all of them silver. While she painted I made the skulls and the "metal" pieces for her headband from the model magic as well. The model magic is very light and takes paint very well. We did have a couple of issues with it though. I must have made my skulls too thin because a couple of them crumbled when I tried to glue them to the skirt or shoulder armor. Luckily I'd made extra though. Also, even though they'd stayed glued onto everything for about a week leading up to Halloween and Charley had tried the stuff on a few times too with no issues, for whatever reason just before we set out to trick or treat, the little spikes started falling off! We used hot glue but they were falling off both the faux leather AND the shoulder armor so I don't think it was an issue with what they were adhered to. Not a huge deal, but something I'll consider if we use the model magic again in the future.

I just used velcro to make the faux fur loops that slipped over her regular boots. The armor on her shoulders was just strips of the grey fun foam held together at both ends by brads. John secured the armor to her shirt, but I think he used another brad through small holes he made in her shirt to get them to stay. It was either that or safety pins. I think we tried both and can't remember what ended up working better. Regardless, they stayed secured all evening, even if some of the spikes were already missing before we even got to our first house to trick or treat!


The weapons were a last minute addition. The shield was a cardboard circle painted black, and I used leftover fun foam to make a border around the edge. I cut a smaller circle to place in the middle and used an extra skull there and extra spikes around the edges. We just made a velcro loop on the back to put around her arm so her hand was freed up for carrying her pumpkin.

The axe was also cut out of cardboard and then painted silver. I used the black ink pad to distress it a bit too. For the handle, I asked John to get one of her dollar store rakes or shovels out of the garage so we could use the handle. I was just going to paint the handle brown or black. Instead, he came in from the garage with the best axe handle ever! He sawed off a piece of a tiki torch we had in the garage that we haven't used in years. It was perfect! He used zip ties to secure the axe head on top and I added the last of the extra spikes on it as well.

The underskirt was triangular pieces of the duck fabric sewed over a piece of elastic. The outerskirt was strips of the faux fur sewed to a belt, and then the belt closed with velcro. I hot glued the skulls and spikes on top.

Also! This costume also consisted of my very first french braid! I get the technique. I know how it is supposed to work. It is my fingers that don't quite get it yet. But they sort of somehow got it together that day! Charley however started whining about it hurting when I got closer to the end so it ended up being a french braid into a ponytail. But still! Not too bad right?!


Laney napped maybe only an hour the whole day of Halloween so she was not having the pictures or especially not the hat part of the costume. So I never did get a good one of both Charley and Laney together. Oh well. I try not to get too bummed when I don't get great pictures. I definitely don't want to spend too much time trying to take good pictures instead of enjoying the moment of which I'm taking pictures. You know?



In the end though, I was pretty darn proud of Charley's costume! Can't wait to see what we will do for next year! Even if Charley starts refusing our homemade costumes, I'll still have Laney to do with as I please. Perhaps she'll make a good octopus next year!



And finally, a couple weeks prior to Halloween the owner of the company for which I work sent out an email asking us to dress up for Halloween in the office on October 30th if we'd like. Also mentioned that there would be prizes for the top 3. A few days prior to the 30th I started asking around to see who was going to dress up and I wasn't sensing a whole lot of participation. I decided my chances to win something for the costume contest were pretty good and so I tried to think of something to throw together really quickly. Tuesday evening while perusing my closet for something anything to pop out at me I figured it out. I threw together a couple of black/white striped pieces, a longer black cardigan, boots and tights and became the Hamburglar. 


I purchased the red tie from Goodwill and the black mask from Michael's. I borrowed the hat from my niece and used felt and ribbon to make the rest. It cost me around $6. And as I suspected, there were only 8 participants in the costume contest, so yours truly brought home first place! 

I won dinner for John and I at a place of our choosing. So tonight we are cashing in on that offer and going to Melting Pot. I know I should have chosen McDonald's for our dinner for giving me the easy costume idea, but another time, Ronald and pals, another time. I'm super excited to have a dinner date at a place that is most known for their DESSERT. My mouth is watering at the thought of it!

Anyway, the good candy from our kid's candy loot has all been consumed and our thoughts are no longer on Halloween but focused on Thanksgiving (who am I kidding) Christmas. Bring on the holidays! My little crafty self goes into overdrive this time of year and I'm feeling pretty trigger happy with my glue gun. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Just Me & Charley

Saturday was yet ANOTHER rainy weekend day here. I feel really bad for any of the fall festival type businesses in our area this year as almost every weekend so far this fall has been rainy. So, when we woke up to yet another rainy day I knew we wouldn't be able to stay in the house all day and an outing would be necessary.

In an effort to not spend much money I decided our outing would consist of these stops:

A trip to the library to return books and check out new ones

A stop at Barnes & Noble to use a birthday gift card (we don't have one super close so it's always a special trip to be able to go spend it)

A visit to Toys R Us so Charley could find ideas for her Santa list

While getting ourselves ready Laney was pretty tired and was getting fussy so I decided I'd nurse her and put her down for a nap and just take Charley out instead. It's much easier to just take Charley and she appreciates the one on one time too. Laney hasn't been the greatest napper for us at home lately so I wasn't sure how it would go for John. But I was able to get her down and get myself ready and we were out of the door around 12:30.

Our first stop ended up being the gas station a couple miles from our house. While I'm about to pull out of the gas station I get a text from John.


Good grief. That nap lasted for all of twenty minutes. LANEY!! I call John back and ask if he wanted me to come back and get her so he could continue working on his project at home and he told me no and to just go ahead and he'd take care of her. So onward we went.

When we got close to the area where the Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us were located (they are right across the street from each other and by a shopping mall) I noticed that we were not the only ones that decided to shop today. Apparently the whole city had cabin fever and the exit ramp was backed up to the interstate. Luckily I knew a shortcut through a neighborhood so I skipped that traffic and went to the next exit.

We were just about to our first stop of Toys R Us when Charley tells me she may be getting carsick. She tends to feel that way when she gets hungry and we are in the car (obvs!). I asked her right before we left home if she wanted lunch and she declined (she slept until 9:00 that morning so we had a late breakfast & I believed her lunch would be later too). Change of plans. The Barnes & Noble is actually attached to the mall food court so I told her to hold it together for a couple more minutes and we'd get lunch first.

Why yes. She is wearing a character shirt that has WORDS on it. My sister is very generous and bought this for her and laughed all the way to the register, I'm sure. :P

Whew. Crisis averted.

So after lunch in a very busy food court we moseyed on over to the bookstore. 

Charley ended up choosing Uni The Unicorn. A good choice for her (unicorn lover) and for me (not too long!). As we walked by the Barnes & Noble snack bar she asked for a treat & I just couldn't tell her no. Plus, do you see these smiles? Totally worth it.


After we ate our treats (of course I had one too) we hopped back in the car to go to Toys R Us. We only come here once or twice a year to get ideas for Christmas or birthdays. It's further than I usually drive and let's be real - I do almost all of my shopping online and normally they just cannot compete with prices online. But I knew we wouldn't be getting out of the store without buying something so I told her if she was good she could pick out something small.


We had a lot of fun wandering around and oohing and ahhing over all of the things she'd love to have. I opted to take pictures of things she wanted to ask for so she'd remember what to write on her list when she got home. Or, so SANTA would be able to add these to the Amazon wish list and not forget about them.


Once she'd visited the very pink rows several times each and was sure she'd seen it all, she then began to look for something small to buy that day. Of course, nothing small is at kid eye level so everything she asked for was out of the budget I'd set in my head of ~$15. Finally though she found something that she really wanted. She's been really into Scooby Doo lately and although it was priced at $20 & therefore a little over budget, they were action figures that I knew she'd get a lot of play time out of so I agreed.


She played with these things ALL WEEKEND. And she turned her Shopkins ice cream truck into a Scooby Doo Mystery Van which I thought was pretty creative, too. I checked the price on Amazon once we got home and was very pleased to see the action figures were the same price on Amazon as they were in the store.

After we left the store she had no interest in going to the library any more. "My feet are so tired, Mama." so we headed home. Laney was napping, John was happy & project-ing, and Charley and I were happy too.

Take that dreary, rainy Saturday! If only we could do something about this dreary, rainy Monday now.