Well, we braved Ikea today. On a weekend. A holiday weekend. But that is another rant altogether. I just wanted to share a picture of a nice configuration of the city select that we used today. Dags is sleeping in the “downstairs” chair (as we call it) and in this pic she is not even fully reclined. The “upstairs” chair is reclined partially and can recline even more in this configuration but it was bending Dagny’s sunshade so I put it up a notch. With the sunshade stowed the upper seat could’ve blocked the lights, but I didn’t want to mess with a sleeping baby, nomesay?
Find The First Half here.
FINALLY! I finished this freaking post! It took a long time going through all of our pictures and then trying to narrow down which ones to include. Next year…I mean THIS year I will try to post about our various exploits when they happen so I don’t have to combine a gazillion posts into a short (haha) year end review. Anyhow, hope your 2012 has started off nicely and best wishes for a happy rest of the year!
Don’t forget you can click on any photo to open it full size in a new browser window. Just click on the photo.
Without a doubt July is always our most jam-packed month of the year with travelling to Florida. This year was particularly crazy as my nephew and sister-in-law were in residence at my mom’s house for my youngest brother’s current deployment in Afghanistan. So there were 4 adults and 3 small children running amok at Chez Mom and it was nuts! But before we left PA, we threw an unexpectedly huge birthday bash for Dagny. So huge (aka exhausting,) in fact, that I abandoned plans to do a Florida birthday party playdate. Once we got to the Sunshine State we got busy with visiting Casa Pineda, going to Weeki Wachee in a torrential downpour, going to the beach with my cousin from Detroit and his kids, trying out semi-private swim lessons, visiting the Florida Aquarium, and hanging with Aunt Ashley and Cousin Jake. We missed some fun stuff in PA like the annual neighborhood garage sale, so we might tweak our vacation time frame this year. We shall see! Looking at all these pictures has given me a bad case of I’M READY FOR SUMMER!
I’m trying to remember just from reviewing pictures, but it looks like Bode maybe started to crawl around as well as pull up on various furniture around the August time frame. It also appears he started cruising along the couch or at least pulling up to stand. We ventured out to the local spray park with our friends Amy (awesome mama who lives up the street from us) and her son Joe (awesome little dude who Dagny plays really well with.) We had loads of fun although I was spread a little thin between the kids. And I’m ashamed to admit we haven’t done very much else socially (in terms of the kids) with them (or anyone else for that matter) since. One sad fact of having 2 kids in 2 years is that it’s incredibly hard to juggle them both at playdates. While other moms are socializing, I’ve got one kid I’m trying to prevent from electrocuting himself and another I’m trying to keep from breaking anything. Good times. I’m sure there will come a time when it’s a bit less stressful, but I can’t see the light at the end of that tunnel yet. And last, but nowhere near least we went to KENNYWOOD! And Dagny has mentioned Kennywood at least 3 or 4 times a week since then. Seriously. She mentions it several times a week.
Believe me when I say, I exercised as much restraint as humanly possible when selecting this limited amount of photos from my August photo folder.
We went to the 7th Street Sportsmans’ Club Picnic. That was interesting this year. Dagny was not as enthusiastic about the corn on the cob, and it truly was not very good this year. She had fun looking for money in the sawdust pile and choosing a temporary tattoo. We rode the little “train” truck, which scared the living daylights out of me. Another interesting thing happened in September. I stopped uploading all my pictures to Facebook and for a while I stopped taking many pictures at all. And to this day (now it’s February) I am still not taking very many photos on a daily basis like I used to. There are a lot of contributing factors, I’m sure but one in particular struck a chord with me. I’m not really sure how or if I’ll continue sharing our life with the people who care about it as time marches on. But for now it is what it is.
In October we took advantage of RADical Days at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which is currently our favorite place of all the places we’ve checked out with the kids. Which is basically just the Carnegie Science Center, the Carnegie Natural History Museum and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. It is AWESOME! The Science Center is a close second, but is better suited to slightly older kiddos. So yeah, we got in for FREE since it was RADical Days, but it was incredibly busy and jam-packed with people. Which means I was stressed beyond my capacity. One time when I was little…definitely under 8 years old…my mom had us at Sears and I was running off like kids do and she scared the living hell out of me by telling me that a store like that was where Adam Walsh was kidnapped and all they ever found was his head. I’m pretty sure she probably has no recollection of ever doing that. BUT I DO. And that fear is still with me when I take my kids ANYWHERE outside the house. So, although I don’t look it, I am an internal wreck if I don’t have both kids tethered down and/or in my line of sight at all times in public. But where were we…October…right. So we also took a trip to Colorado, wherein Dagny made the big switch to a big girl bed and I got my hair cut (fixed) by my beloved stylist, Monica. Upon returning home, I gave Dagny her very first haircut and tucked the first fallen lock into her baby book. After that the big news was the first snowfall, which yielded a pretty nice snowman which stayed fairly well intact for Halloween. Dagny dressed up as The Cat in The Hat and Bode was an adorable little monkey. Looks like I never posted about Halloween. We did the neighborhood parade, which is one of my favorite annual events. Then we went for a brief trick-or-treat as it was very cold outside. Dags had a blast until her fingers and toes started to hurt. So we went home and handed out more candy. Somewhere in the midst of all that fun, Bode started walking and he hasnt slowed down since!
The fact that I never posted about Halloween might have been a tip off, but somewhere between August and December I lost my way. Depression took me down hard. I quit yoga. Lots of napping and going through the motions like a robot. There isn’t much to write about as a result. I think it all sort of came to a head in November, which is good because I think things have been slowing looking up ever since. We joined the YMCA and started going to Spin classes twice a week. Then we spent the month battling the falling leaves, which was a great boon to the kids. They had so much fun running through the piles and getting buried and throwing toys into the pile. Of course, November is when Thanksgiving happens and we had a lovely one this year. I honestly can’t remember who’s house we were at, but I think it was Lauren & Dave’s. Or it could have been Jim & Jamie’s. I didn’t take a single picture so now we’ll never know.
We got to go to the Children’s Museum again for a Christmas Party! The month of December is a blur up here in PA. There are parties and festivities and putting up decorations during every free moment. Every weekend there is something to see or do. And this year we were blessed with a visit from my brother, Matt and his (now) fiancee, Rachel. I hadn’t seen Matt in at least 2 years, so this was a very special even for me, probably what finally pulled me out of the funk I was stuck in. We cleaned the house and organized the basement and set up a little basement guest area (of which I am very proud.) They slept a lot and we never even managed to open the bottle of Caduceus we ordered just for the occasion. We did manage to get them to Primanti’s, Pamela’s and the Dusquesne Incline. Speaking of the incline…it made a huge impression on Dagny. She mentions it almost weekly, just like Kennywood. And ironically she just came down the stairs hollering, “I’m going to the incline!” Weird. Maybe she has ESP. Gah! We also went to the Shriner’s Christmas celebration as a guest of our neighbor, Glenn…who also gave us a huge artificial Christmas tree. And it turned out that for a week or so in December, right before Matt came to visit, Tom Cruise was in OUR TOWN, literally a few hundred yards away from OUR HOUSE, filming some action movie. Word is, they were shooting inside this run down warehouse looking building called the Allegheny River Terminal. A building that drive by almost daily, and every time think to myself what a great movie set it would make. My good taste has been confirmed. Ha. Apparently Tom was seen in Parnassus, just down the hill from our house, and at Fox’s Pizza in downtown New Ken/Arnold. While I’m not a crazy Tom Cruise fan, it was pretty crazy to think of him walking around in our town like that. Anyway, we capped off the month with one of Kelly’s soccer games. Dagny loooooooved it. It was an indoor game and the field had see-through walls around it. She would run along the wall with the girls, following the ball. One time the ball came right to the wall and she about lost it with excitement. It makes me smile, just thinking about it.
Well, so that was our year. I’m sure there were things I left out, but hey, these are just the highlights. This year I’ll try to do a better job with posting. In fact, I think I already am. Lots of pictures going up. I try not to do to much but I guess there’s really no point in worrying. So yeah, I’m just going to do what I do and if you like it keep coming back. If not…well, I guess I’ll carry on without you.
Alrighty. Part 2 of the best weekend we’ve had in a long time. Sunday we finally hit up Community Days. I had no idea what to expect, and I was totally impressed. For starters, I was walking up to the park entrance and ran into my neighbors, who also live next door to my in-laws. They are really cool people and so we walked up together and they insisted on buying my admission. I don’t know how to fully capture in words the sense of community that Pittsburgh is steeped in, but that generous gesture by my neighbors sort of exemplifies it. People here are generous, courteous and care deeply for their communities. They are friendly, welcoming and supportive. For me, moving here…living here has been like stepping into a television show. It’s the stuff I’ve always dreamed of, the life I fantasized about for so many years. The community festivals all year long, Kennywood (you can’t understand unless you go there,) neighbors who actually know each other and wave at you when they see you out in your yard. For me, having grown up in what is basically a retiree destination in Florida, this is surreal.
But anyway, back to the topic at hand. Community Days is put on by the local fire department, I believe. There were booths with people selling trinkets, crafts and services lining the paths through the park. A couple of booths were offering facepainting. There was an area dedicated to food and picnic area with tables. There were several inflatable “attractions?” I don’t know what to call them. One was an obstacle course, one was a huge slide and one was a standard moon bounce. There was also a bungee trampoline thingy.
I let Dagny get her face painted while we waited for James to park the car. She sat so still and was so well behaved my head almost exploded.
I was shocked. The kid is a spaz. I was bursting with pride at how perfectly focused she was. She loved it. Once James arrived we bought tickets for her to do the bungee jump thing and a couple of the inflatable things.
So yeah, we let her do the bungee jump. It sounds worse than it is. I think. They strapped her into the harness and she was swimming in it. The operator assured us there was no way she would fall out and he even flipped her over to prove it.
Obviously the guy doesn’t have kids because he had NO IDEA how much that freaked me out as a parent. But once I caught my breath, I totally reveled in Dagny’s squeals and laughter. She freaking loved that bungee jump. She was fearless.
Next we took her through the obstacle course and super big slide. Again, she was fearless and thrilled. Unbounded joy. Which we had to squash by not letting her do it over and over and over again like she wanted.
We ate what I call “fair food” aka “carnival food” and it was awesome. There’s a distinct difference in the types of food available at events here versus what I’ve experienced in Florida and Colorado. Here there is almost always pierogies, gyros and haluski. And sausage. So we had our fill of the greasy delicacies and by then it was time to head for the car.
So yeah, that was our Sunday. Pretty awesome, eh?
This weekend was a smashing success. Yesterday we went downtown to check out a table that was on Craigslist and figured since we were down there, might as well drive over to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and see if we could spot some furries. If you were not aware, and why would you be, Pittsburgh is hosting Anthrocon 2011 this year. Anthrocon is sort of a gathering of furries, although it is also much, much more than that. It was fascinating walking the streets surrounding the convention center, seeing the characters and interacting with them. I first heard about the whole thing from a post by Michelle over at The Burgh Baby. Last year she took loads of cool photos and asked a bunch of questions, then blogged about it. She also went down this year and took more photos.
We took Dagny because we correctly surmised that she would get a kick out of seeing the “doggies” but she is young enough not to pick up on some of the…let’s just call it sexual energy…of the experience. That’s not to say that it’s at all crazy and perverted, because it’s totally NOT. There are just some provocative characters, some of whom have friends who are not afraid of public displays of affection. For the most part, it’s just a lot of fun, I think.
We were not the only ones who brought their kiddos down to check out the convention. Lots of strollers being wheeled around down there. Apparently you have to be registered with the conference to get into the convention center. We just walked around and got to interact with some characters who were hanging out around Toonseum and along Liberty Avenue.
We were too chicken to go poke around at the Westin, which I think is where a lot of conference attendees stay since it’s right across the street from the convention center.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a slight inclination to make my own fursuit and cavort with the plush creatures. As well as the less plush. It’s not as if I don’t have experience sewing fur…
I am fascinated by the whole thing, and I love fantastical imagery. It also happens that the sexy-fied characters are my favorites to gawk at. I wish I had the balls to full on stare at them as long as I’d like to. As it stands, I’m currently afraid to make eye contact.
I still want to make another post about all the fun we had today at New Kensington’s Community Days, but alas it is getting late. Stay tuned for the rest of the story tomorrow.
So last week our little family of 4 travelled out to Denver together. James had planned this business trip to coincide with an upcoming product release and we decided to make it a family affair this time. Of COURSE the product release was pushed back, but that is neither here nor there.
I got to see my Colorado mom friends…the women who’s community held me up through my first year of motherhood. It was freaking awesome to see everyone and kinda pretend I still live there for the week.
Anyhow, we had a fabulous time but we messed up our sleep schedules even more than they already are in the process. So this week has been an exercise in getting ourselves back on track. I am pretty pleased with what we’ve accomplished so far, which is basically that I’ve been getting to bed before 1am and getting up within the 7 o’clock hour. I’d say I’ve been getting about 7 hours of sleep each night (ignoring feedings,) which is FANTASTIC. Bode went about 2 weeks where he slept right through the night, but now he’s waking 1 or 2 times again. I think it’s related to the quality of his daytime naps, which has suffered over the past 2 weeks. I’m buckling down and making them a priority this week and sure enough, his nighttime sleep has also improved. Slowly, but I’ll take what I can get.
All that focus on sleeping around here has left little time to blog or even think up things to blog about. But one thing I wanted to just touch on, is my evolving feelings about Denver and Pittsburgh.
I realized while I was out west last week that although the weather is ideal and the geography is my favorite of any place I’ve lived, what really ties me to Denver is my happy memories of that place. All of the best memories of my life so far have made their home in Denver. So when I go there, everywhere I look there is something to remind me of the good times we had. I know that we will still make more good memories out west, hopefully on the ski slopes with our kidlets. I also know that good times will happen here in Pittsburgh too.
Another thing that I realized is how much I looked forward to coming home, our home…the home that we own. I love this house and I foresee lots of beautiful memories forming here. I also am starting to see possibilities for new friendships all around, as well as developing an appreciation of the friendships I’ve already begun through my dabblings in social media.
Life is good, people. Not even the rain can get me down. It reminds me of days spent at my best friend’s cabin in Murphy, North Carolina. The green leaves out back seem to fluoresce in the mist. And the temperatures are rising, slowly but surely. Occasionally the sun breaks out and my heart floats up in my chest while my skin soaks in the warmth. One thing this move has taught me is to appreciate beauty wherever it is found. Love these things fiercely because they will soon be gone. But don’t fret, because they’ll be back again soon enough.
The deal is a free kid’s meal ($3.99 value) with the purchase of an adult entree on Tuesdays. They also usually have a balloon artist going from table to table at the Monroeville location.
We’ve been going to Max & Erma’s almost every week lately. We’ve been to the one in Monroeville (near the “old” house) and the one in Fox Chapel (near the “new” house.) At both locations we’ve experienced great service and presentation. This restaurant makes it really easy for families. Changing tables in both restrooms, and a wastebasket next to the changing table. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Kid’s meals are reasonably priced at $3.99 with lots of great options for entrees and side items. Kids’ drinks and the unlimited kids’ sundae bar are each $0.99. We also have noticed that whether we’re there on a Tuesday or a Friday, there are usually other families with kids there. Not only do our kids like watching and interacting with the other kids, it makes us feel less like we’re ruining everyone’s dining experience by bringing our kids out in public. In other words, we feel welcome there.
McDonald’s will give children a “kiddie cone” for free upon request. The cone is about 2 inches tall and it has the perfect amount of ice cream for a toddler and/or small child. It is the absolute perfect size for a small child and then you don’t have to share your sundae ;)
I believe this is available at all McDonald’s stores, although I only tested it at two of them, one inside Walmart and one free-standing franchise store. I may be a little late in discovering this, but you never know. If I was unaware of it, I’m sure other moms are too.
I wasn’t compensated in any way for writing this. Just sharing my kid-friendly experience :)
Here is my correspondance with McDonald’s regarding whether all stores offer the free kiddie cones.
Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s. We truly appreciate customer feedback and welcome this opportunity to share some information with you.
Approximately 85 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are owned and operated by independent businesspeople. As independent owners, McDonald’s franchise owners have the authority to make certain operating decisions as they relate to their McDonald’s restaurant operations.
Again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s. We hope to have the opportunity of serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.
McDonald’s Customer Response Center
Please do not “reply” to this email response. No “replies” can be received through this mailbox. If you wish to contact McDonald’s Customer Response Center again, please visit our website at http://www.mcdonalds.com
Did you know that McDonald’s now serves Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (less than 300 calories and it’s served all day)?
Comment: Hi There,
I received a free kiddie cone at a McDonald’s store. Are these kiddie cones available and free at all McDonald’s stores?
I decided to make a new category (Free Stuff for Kids in Pittsburgh) where I’ll try to post my free-stuff-for-kids discoveries in and around Pittsburgh. I think many of them will be relevant to other areas though, since we frequent our share of national chains. So don’t totally write this off if you’re one of my out-of-state friends! If you discover any good free stuff, email me and I’ll check it out and do a little write-up. Or if you’d like me to link to something you’ve written up, let me know!
We’ve had a lovely, lovely morning! I was greeting by sunshine (since gone) when I went down to the kitchen and gorgeous globs of snow covering everything outside. There was even a little bit of sun-kissed, glittery dust still fluttering down from the sky. Sigh. Winter, you can be so divine sometimes.
We opened our presents and scarfed some Cinnamon Toast Crunch… in lieu of my hopes of making cinnamon rolls. Now it’s time to get ready for some family festivities and I sincerely wish there was time for a nap. There will be time for sleep later, right? Right, my fellow moms? ;)
Haha! Famous last words, right? Hopefully I didn’t just tempt the universe to start my labor this evening.
I hope all are having a lovely day today! Here’s a little bit of ours so far…
Boy have I got some exciting news!!! A week or so ago I asked a bunch of you for positive energy on Facebook…and guess what! It worked! We are now under contract to buy a lovely house that we are pretty excited about. I suppose I sort of owe an update on the decision-making process…even though I don’t really want to go into it. Oh well, here goes.
We went round and round about what part of town to live in. We really wanted to do the whole downtown-ish urban thing, and that’s what we’d been fantasizing about since long before we even got here. We both had eyes for Highland Park and I still think that is an awesome part of town. We also love Regent Square and Squirrel Hill. However…the fantasy just wasn’t panning out the way we’d hoped. For one thing, the homes that were updated enough for us to consider were at the very high-end of our chosen price range in Highland Park and we couldn’t really make anything work in Regent Square or Squirrel Hill without significant compromise. In fact, after looking at many homes downtown, and in the Forest Hills/Churchill/Blackridge area, we lowered our price range because we just weren’t “wowed” by anything. And you kind of want to be wowed at the top of your price range. So we decided that if we were going to settle, we might as well be settling at a much lower price. That decision pretty much removed the lingering Highland Park from our consideration altogether.
So we focused on Forest Hills, Churchill and Blackridge for a while and when I finally realized that downtown was no longer an option in James’s mind, I had to hit the brakes. This all happened right about the time I wrote that last update on our decision-making process. I realized we just weren’t going to be able to make it work downtown and have the sort of urban/pedestrian/pseudo-European lifestyle that I had been dreaming of. Too many factors were stacked against us. I also realized that our effort to compromise a little by considering areas just east of downtown was a little misguided. It was an effort to hold onto the downtown dream, but in reality there was absolutely nothing downtown about it. We wouldn’t have had any of the benefits of living downtown…in my mind things like being able to walk or bike to the city’s gorgeous parks, my favorite grocery stores, and the abundant cultural venues. Oh yeah, and I’m probably supposed to mention the sports venues as well now that I’m Burgh Verified, right? Anyway…we weren’t going to really have that living in Forest Hills or further east. At that moment…the moment I realized that…I knew that if we were really going to do what was best for ourselves, we were going to have to give New Ken & Lower Burrell a second chance. So we did.
We found that we were able to stay at the low to middle end of our newly lowered price range and find homes that had been updated enough to satisfy us. Several homes. We also admitted to ourselves how important and beneficial it was for us to be near some family. Still, neither of us was (or is) thrilled about the current economics of the area. We are very fortunate to be a telecommuting family. James is blessed with the same employment situation he had in Denver, except…he does it from home now. In fact, we are ALL blessed with that and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I give thanks every. single. day. for it. One big reason we avoided NK/LB was in case James ever ended up needed to commute into downtown. We finally realized we probably didn’t need to arrange our lives around a “maybe.” NK/LB does have a few things going for it that were important for me…they have one of the nicest Giant Eagles I’ve seen since we came here. They also have THE nicest Target I’ve seen since we came here. And incidentally the ONLY Target I’ve seen that has a Starbucks inside it. I’m sure they have one down in the Robinson area too but that’s just way in the opposite direction of everything we came here for. There’s also Pittsburgh Mills…not the most awesome mall, but it will do until 2.0 has the fortitude for occasional day trips to Zombieville…which is currently my favorite mall in the area. Waterworks isn’t too far away either, as long as Rte 28 hasn’t imploded. So. There is plenty of support for my raging consumerist tendencies. Which would be much abated if there was a reasonable secondhand/thrift market around here. If there is one, for the love of God help me find it!
So anyway…point being…we were able to overlook the pretty significant detractors and see some positives. I’ll probably avoid driving through downtown NK at all costs to avoid sinking into a depressive funk. We have also found a house that seemed almost made for us. Almost. It has a perfect space for James’s office on the main level. It has just enough bedrooms and the walkout basement has lots of potential to be finished to our liking. It’s on a double lot…so there’s yard space for kids to play and for adults to barbecue & booze. Have I mentioned how badly I want a margarita lately? Wait, where was I? It has a garage for at least one of our cars. It’s in Mt. Vernon…which I personally believe is one of the most kid-friendly areas in NK and also just a cool neighborhood in general. People decorate for the holidays. They have a neighborhood association that coordinates an annual garage sale, a Halloween parade, and various other community events. Sidewalks throughout the entire neighborhood. The house backs up to a beautiful swath of trees. And it looks like a modern house inside. It’s been totally redone. Walls have been removed to make for a more open floor plan. Everything is new. Everything is bright. So we’ve managed to get a contract on this house we like. In New Ken. Literally around the corner from Mia, Grandpa & Aunt Kelly. Also much closer to James’s Aunts & Uncles & cousins on his mom’s side. Pretty much the whole family lives up that way, save for some very important people in Florida. And that brings me to my next point…
I’ve talked about lifestyle before and how we have some crazy ideas for what we want our life to be like. We know that there’s a lot we’ll have to come to terms with. I mean, I know we just aren’t going to be jet-setting around the globe, showing the kids the seven wonders of the world if we don’t win the lottery or somehow come into some money a la Scrooge McDuck. Currently we aren’t even buying lottery tickets…so I’m not totally delusional. However. One very important aspect of our life plan is to someday reasonably “soon” buy a second property in Florida, up the street from those very important people I mentioned earlier…or maybe on the beach 5 minutes away. At the very least, we are committed to dividing our time between PA and FL as soon as we can achieve it. We’ve done a lot of calculating. We believe it’s reasonable that we could achieve that in less than a decade based on our choice to buy a house at the low-end of our chosen price range. So that is the grand plan. It’s always been the grand plan, although lots of other things float around in there and get a lot more press, not the least of which is annual ski trips for maintaining Momma’s sanity and the undying dream of travelling the world with our kids. We’re going to have to scrimp and save and do the Spartan thing for a few more years. Of course here and there we’ll treat ourselves to some niceties. I know we both want to move beyond the college furniture we currently have and treat ourselves to a few upgrades. I know we both want to have a legitimate space to host guests. But overall, the goal is set and the wheels are in motion. We’ve committed to several more years of pragmatism and frugality so that we can get our hands on some priceless intangibles a bit faster. We think the kids will appreciate it someday. And we hope all of you VIF’s (very important Floridians) understand it too.