Thursday, September 27, 2012

Things I'm Loving About Motherhood

Sometimes I take a moment to pause and think "I love that this is happening right now!" Or "I love this stage, and I might not even realize when it's over, so I need to commit it to memory." Here are a few of those things:

-Joseph's squeals of delight when he sees me after I've been gone for so so long (typically sneaking into the bathroom by myself for a full two minutes.)

-Stephanie singing songs she's learned at school, that I recognize from my pre-mommy days teaching at that same school. (It's like my past and present are colliding. It's strange...but nice!)

-The way Joseph cuddles up to me every single time I pick him up.

-Stephanie's "I just need to hug you mom!"

-Watching Joseph eat an entire apple in one sitting.

-Morning cuddles in bed. We go in every morning to wake up Dan for work, and the four of us spend a few moments all together. The kids bounce around and giggle together while Dan and I watch them with huge smiles stretched across our faces.

-Listening to Stephanie have full-blown conversations with her cousin. (And Joseph. Although those are more one-sided.)

-Watching Joseph beam with pride as he walks all over the apartment.

-Seeing Stephanie light up every time she catches sight of our building's housekeeper. She adores him, and has epic conversations whenever we leave our apartment and catch him on his break. (She also yells out the window at him to stop smoking because smoking is gross. We're teaching her early!)

I can't begin to describe how much I love this little family that Dan and I have created. Some days are hectic and hustle bustle, and I write on Facebook about how I can't wait for them to end so I can relax with some wine. But despite that, I wouldn't trade this time of my life for anything. (Even though there are still sleepless nights, tons of whining and tantrums, arguments, etc.) I'm taking a step back and trying to appreciate each of these small moments of happiness and joy. Because in the time it takes me to blink, they'll be all over!

What are you enjoying about your life right at this moment?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning

It's the last week of September, which means I've started thinking about October meal planning.

In September I did meal-planning for the entire month all at once. I loved doing it, but it was easy because the month was filled with birthdays, gatherings and other events that meant we never had a full week of at-home eating. (And I sort of stopped following it by the end of the month.)

Why did I decide to meal-plan for the entire month at once? Many reasons.
1. I'm hoping to stream-line my grocery shopping and get as much done in bulk at BJ's at the beginning of the month as possible.
2. I'm sick of throwing away food. This happens because we don't eat our leftovers. With no plan in mind, the leftovers just sit in the fridge and go bad.
3. I'm developing a budget for my family, and part of that is figuring out how to get the most bang for my buck when it comes to food shopping.

I realized last month that planning monthly meals is much different than planning for the week. I needed to find a new plan of attack, and I started today.

First, I sat down and wrote down all the meals I'm hoping to make this month. I used my Pinterest boards for some ideas, used some of our old stand-bys and favorites, and included a few things I've wanted to try but haven't had a chance to in a while.

When I had my meal ideas, I sat down and filled in days that I know we won't be home or won't be wanting to eat full meals at home. (Joseph's birthday, Halloween, etc.)

Then I started plugging meals into dates on the calendar. If one meal had an ingredient that could be included in another meal, I put them in back-to-back.  Every third day or so I included a "leftover" night. This means we'll eat any leftovers from the past three nights. If there aren't enough, I can supplement with extra vegetables or salad.

Once I had the meals planned out, I made the grocery lists. One big BJ's list, and then each week a supplementary list based on our meals and weekly staples. (Milk, cheese, yogurt, fruit.) Those weekly lists are much shorter than normal, which should help with the budget!

I then went through my coupon stash and pulled out any of them that corresponded to an item I had on one of my lists. (I clipped each coupon to it's matching list.) If I had a coupon for something that wasn't on my list, I didn't pull it out. I always fall into the trap of "oh, this coupon is too good to waste!" and end up buying things I don't really need.

I'm really hoping that this method of meal planning will be successful. (It took a lot of time to plan and organize everything, so i'm hoping it will be worth it!)

Do you meal plan? What's your system? Do you do it weekly? Monthly? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. This system I did was a lot of work, so finding ways to streamline it might help!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple Picking 2012

Earlier this week I posted my Fall bucket list. Since I took so long to actually get the post written, I was able to cross the first item off the list before I even published it.

This past weekend we did one of my all time favorite fall activities: apple picking.

Dan and I have been apple picking together for years. We first while we were just dating. We went the year we were engaged. We went the year I was pregnant with Stephanie.

We went two years ago when she was just 9 months old.

We went last year when I was pregnant with Joseph and Stephanie was 1.5.

We're sitting with pumpkins, but it's really the apple orchard
 Every year has been fun, but this year, with two children enjoying the day, it was our best yet.

Stephanie loved running up and down the lanes of apples. When we taught her how to pick them off the trees, she took off and picked like a pro. (She particularly enjoyed picking an apple, taking one bite, and putting it in the bag. We put a stop to that awfully quickly.)

Joseph sat in his stroller and munched on an apple. At one point, he ate two at a time. When he took a (very short) break from eating, he giggled at the "balls" as he called them.

My favorite part of the day was when I paused for a moment and watched my family. I wanted to imprint the day in my memory, and really relish the experience.

When we were engaged, I watched families with children pick apples and dreamed that it would be us someday. When we went while I was pregnant with Stephanie, I imagined what it would be like to experience it with my baby. It amazes me that now we are a family of four, still enjoying our annual fall tradition. Listening to my children shriek and giggle as we make our way through the orchard makes me happy and content in a way I never knew possible.

I love every aspect of the fall, and I feel truly blessed to have a husband and two beautiful children to share these experiences with.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall Bucket List

*I've had this post languishing in my drafts for about a week now, so I've already accomplished the first item on it. I'll take that as a sign of good things to come!

So many bloggers make summer bucket lists. I made one last year, and had planned to make one this year too butI never got around to it, and now the Fall season is here. I started thinking about all the fun family things I hope to do this season and realized I should make a Fall bucket list. This is my favorite time of year, and I want to make the most of it!

Fall Bucket List

-Go Apple Picking
-Use the picked apples to make:
Apple Pie
Apple Crisp
Apple Pizza (it's a delicious dessert! I'll post a recipe soon.)
Apple Sauce

-Go Pumpkin picking with our best friends (a tradition we started before we had kids, but had to miss last year because Joseph arrived in early October)
-Use the pumpkins to:
Roast Pumpkin Seeds

-Go to Fall/Harvest Festivals (my goal is to make it to at least two different ones!)

-Take the kids to the playground every Friday afternoon. I started this last year with a friend of mine and her daughter, but it didn't last very long. (Mostly because I was 9 months pregnant and wasn't thrilled about being at the park in that state.) The weather this time of year is perfect, and I'd like to take advantage of it!

-Have a mini Halloween party with Stephanie and some of her friends

-Take the kids Trick-or-Treating
-We will take them to a local neighborhood, since most of the college kids on this campus aren't equipped for Trick-or-Treaters
-I'd also like to take the kids to a local farm that hosts a Trick-or-Treating event

-Halloween Zoo Adventures
-Our local zoo has a huge Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular. We've only gone once, but we loved it. I can't wait to take the kids again this year.
-The zoo also has a "spooky zoo" day, where the kids wear their costumes and participate in fun activities

-Take a lot of morning and afternoon walks, soaking up the weather and admiring the foliage before it turns frigid and cold. (We had a very mild winter last year, so I'm assuming it's going to be a vicious one this year!)

I'd love some more things to add to the list, so feel free to let me know what fun fall adventures you and your family plan to go on this season!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy 11 Months Joseph!

Dear Joseph,

Happy 11 Month Birthday! (And since I didn't write you a 10 month letter, Happy 10 Months too!)

It's hard to believe that this is your last monthly letter. In October I will be writing "Happy 1st Birthday!" I can't even tell you how quickly this year has gone by without spewing a bunch of cliches. So just trust's gone fast.

Every day you become more and more like a little boy and not a tiny baby. You have taken your first wobbly steps, and over the past week you've gotten sturdier and stronger. I know you will be running by the time your birthday arrives.

In the process of pulling yourself up to stand

You have a small arsenal of words that you use to express yourself, and I adore the sound of your little voice. Right now you can say Mama (which you use to call me from your crib in the morning or to call for me when i'm daring to use the bathroom without you), Dada, Ball, more, bye-bye, hi, up, no, and night-night.

Your favorite activities are throwing balls, sliding all the magnets off the refrigerator, eating anything and everything, annoying your sister, and pulling all the toilet paper off the roll. You've started showing an interest in actual toys, and will play with your shape sorter, blocks and ring stackers when we sit down with you.
You desperately want to do any activity that your sister is doing

You are still the most snugly baby I've ever met. You crawl over for hugs, you give kisses when we ask for them, and you put your head on my chest to cuddle whenever I hold you.

You have a cold right now, and are in the middle of cutting a ton of teeth, so your sleeping habits have not been great. But when you aren't dealing with those issues, you sleep through the night. (THANK YOU!) You nap twice a day when we're home, and will snooze in the car if we're out and about in the morning.

As I mentioned, you love to eat. We haven't found much that you don't like, and some of your favorites include avocado, black beans, tomatoes, meatballs/meatloaf, pasta, grapes, berries, and goldfish crackers. If you see anyone else eating, you toddle over and say "More. More."

I still fall more and more in love with you every day. You are a delightful little boy, and it is a joy to be your Mommy. Thank you for your smiley, happy personality, which never fails to put me in a good mood. I love you little one, more than you will ever know!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Chili Edition!

The air is crisp, the humidity is finally gone, and we actually had to wear sweaters yesterday morning. All of this means that FALL, my favorite time of year, is almost here.

One of my goals for the fall is to use my crock-pot once a week. For my first fall crock-pot meal yesterday, it was only right that I make chili, one of my all-time favorite meals. (And in the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I make chili all year long. But it reminds me of fall every time I make it.)

I use my mom's chili recipe, with a few tweaks here and there. Dan, Stephanie and I love it, and last night Joseph had his first taste. It was a hit with him too!


2lbs ground beef 
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1tsp sugar
1.5 C chopped onion (I hate onion chunks, so I use onion powder)
.5 cup minced green pepper (I use 3/4 cup because we love pepper)
2 (15oz) or 1 (29oz) can tomato sauce
1C water
1 clove garlic, crushed (I use garlic powder if i'm out of garlic(
1 pinch cumin (optional, but I always add it)
1 can small red beans, undrained (I drain them, for no particular reason.)

Cook meat in dutch oven or heavy pan until it loses redness.

Sprinkle with chili powder, salt, & sugar. Blend well through meat. 

Add onion & green pepper, cook stirring occasionally until vegetables soften.

(At this point I transfer everything to the crock-pot. The recipe calls for it to continue to cook on the stove top)

Add tomato sauce, water, garlic, cumin 

*Simmer covered 1-1.5 hours (I cook it on low in the crock-pot all day long)

Add beans, simmer uncovered .5 hour or until desired consistency (I add the beans an hour before we want to eat)

Serve with whatever side you enjoy with chili. We always have Tostitos scoops chips. If you use my recipe, be sure to let me know what you think! Enjoy! :)

*Today i'm linking up with Candice over at The New Modern Momma! Head on over to check out other tasty recipes! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Highlights Hello...A Magazine For Babies!

Do you remember reading Highlights magazine as a kid? I do! (In fact, I think my mom might still have some of our Highlights lying around her house.) I loved the magazine, and Dan and I have talked before about how we can't wait until our children are old enough to read it.

When I went to BlogHer12 last month, I was invited to a Highlights breakfast launch for their BRAND NEW magazine, Highlights Hello. I was ecstatic, and couldn't wait to find out more about their newest addition. And what I found out is fantastic!

Highlights Hello is a magazine for babies ages 0-2, and they generously gifted me with an advance copy, which I couldn't wait to bring home to share with Joseph!

As you can see, he absolutely loved it.
MOM! I get my very own magazine??
Hmmmm, lets see what this thing is all about
Ooooh, I love it so much that I must chew it!
Highlights Hello was a huge hit for both Joseph and I. He loves cuddling with me as I read him the age appropriate poem and story. On the Find It page, I point out and name the objects that we see. The colors are vibrant and cheerful, and Joseph loves to bat the pages with his hands.

One of the things I love best about Highlights Hello is that it's printed with non-toxic ink containing soy and/or vegetable oils, on durable, washable paper with rounded corners. Seriously, Joseph has chewed this thing like crazy and it hasn't disintegrated and he has never bit a piece off. Even board books can't claim this!

Most of you know how much I love books and reading, and how important I think it is to start a love of literacy very young. Highlights Hello provides an opportunity for age-appropriate reading, and I love their mission for this new magazine, which is to:

         *Strengthen the parent/child bond by encouraging parents to talk, laugh, play, sing and read with their babies and toddlers
         *Encourage parents to observe & build upon their babies' inherent abilities
         *Support babies' language development
         *Inspire the discovery & rediscovery of the joy of loving and caring for their babies

Want to Purchase Highlights Hello?
The first issue will be the January 2013 issue, which will ship in December. Pre-ordering is available on their website, (You can rest assured that your magazine will arrive clean, because Highlights ships it in an envelope!)

You can subscribe to Highlights Hello for 1, 2, or 3 years. (There is a discount if you choose the 2 or 3 year options. A 1 year subscription costs $34.44.) Also, (and I think this is a fantastic option!) you can change your order at any time to Highlights High Five (for ages 2-6) if your child outgrows Highlights Hello before your subscription ends! I love that!

WIN A Subscription!
Highlights is generously offering one lucky A Baby Makes Four reader the chance to win a 1 year subscription. And while Highlights Hello is the perfect choice for us because Joseph is still little, some of you might have older children who would benefit from one of the other fabulous Highlights magazines. (Highlights High Five for ages 2-6 or Highlights for ages 6-12.)

I've decided to make entering this giveaway as SIMPLE as possible. That means that the only thing you have to do is leave me a blog comment below. Let me know which magazine you'd like to win, and who you would like to win it for. The giveaway runs through September 16th, and I will randomly choose a winner the morning of the 17th. (Which happens to be my birthday, so consider this my birthday you!) I will announce the winner on the A Baby Makes Four facebook page and on Twitter.

I'll leave you with this final picture of me, spending quality time with my precious little ones, reading Highlights Hello. :) Good luck to everyone, I can't wait to see who the lucky winner will be!

*Highlights provided me with an advance copy of Highlights Hello for review purposes. All opinions are my own. Giveaway open to US residents only. When the winner is announced, he/she will have 48 hours to contact me back. If I haven't heard from the winner by that point, I will choose someone else. 

*If you've enjoyed reading this blog post, I'd love for you to consider following my blog on Facebook, subscribing by email and/or following via GFC! Thank you, and I appreciate all of your support. :) 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Back to School Edition

My little girl started school yesterday! She's attending a toddler nursery school program two mornings a week. She had a fantastic first day, with minimal tears. I'm so proud of her! Enjoy these pictures of her first day.

*For those of you who are my friend on Facebook, you've seen these. Sorry for the repeat, but she was just so cute I couldn't resist posting them on the blog as well!

Dressed up in her new Back-to-School outfit!
Posing with Joseph

Posing with Daddy

Posing with Mommy!
Walking into School with Daddy
Playing in her classroom before we left

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Haircut

She's walking, she's talking, she's starting school in two days. (More on that in another post.) She eats with a fork and spoon (most of the time), can drink from a regular cup and is 100% potty-trained (no pull-ups, even at night.) She knows all her colors, shapes, and letters. My girl is growing up, and yesterday she reached another milestone: her first haircut.

We talked up the haircut in the days leading up to it. I wanted her to be excited, even though she really had no idea what getting a haircut meant.

On the morning of the big day we dropped baby brother off at my mom's house and headed out for some girl time.

When we got to the salon, she was thrilled. (It was a pretty cool place.) She bounced up and down on the chairs in the waiting area, and posed with the Snip-Its mascot.

When it was time to hop up in the seat, she did so gamely. When the hairdresser put the smock on, her eyes got a little big, but we talked her through what was happening.

And then she was given bubbles to blow, and it was as if she had been handed a million dollars. It's amazing how powerful bubbles can be.

The hairdresser cut off a few inches, blew it dry, and styled it with a french braid, complete with a bow. (She asked Stephanie her favorite color and she responded "blue and pink." So that's what she got.)

The trip was completed with a handful of animal crackers, a pretty bracelet souvenir, and a certificate for her first haircut. (Which contained a piece of her precious baby hair.) My proud girl held it up and posed for pictures. She then announced that she needed another haircut so she could blow bubbles in the big chair again.

After I convinced her that her hair needs to grow long again before we cut it, we headed out to finish our day with some shopping.

What do you think....quite a difference, right?

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