Friday, March 30, 2012

Abbey looks really familiar!

I think our children resemble a combination of both Drew and I.  When Abbey was born, I thought she was a spitting image of Luke.   Lately, as I look at her and see her expressions, I have been having strange feelings like these images are oddly familiar.

So, I started looking at mine and Drew's baby pics.  Look what I found:

Those are pictures of me as a baby.  Here are some recent photos of Abbey.

It is so strange how you can see both parents in a child, yet also have the child look so similarly to you in your own baby photos.  Maybe it is because Drew and I look a lot alike as well, but lately I have just been in such awe about this.  On a side note, we are finding that Luke's personality is shaping out to look a lot more like mine.  Let's just hope Abbey turns out to be more like Drew to balance things out around here.  :-)

In order to help guide us in raising a strong-willed child (Luke), I just purchased two books by Dr. James Dobson:  "Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries" and "The New Strong-Willed Child."  I am hoping to take away some good knowledge from these books to apply daily with Mr. Luke.  I have also been saying a lot of prayers and have even been including Luke in some of these prayers.  That kid is so sweet and fun, but that strong will, combined with being two and a half years old and having new sibling jealousy is creating a combination lately that has been very difficult.  I know that a strong will also has many benefits.  I am hoping that through reading these books and with God's direction, I can help Luke focus on these positive benefits and continue to praise him for all of his positive qualities and behaviors.  I love that kid so stinkin' much!

A Toddler's Outdoor Paradise--for practically free!

Everyone who truly knows me understands that I will never pay market value for anything.  This includes houses, cars, toys, clothing, entertainment, food and even fuel for the car.  When we need to purchase something, I scour all my resources for coupons, coupon codes, rebates, used deals (thrift stores and craigslist) and any way possible to get absolutely the very best deal possible.  And, of course, free is best.  I feel like if I can't buy something for significantly less than everyone else, then I have not done my job.  It is the way I was born and bred.

Is my thriftiness extreme?  Am I a little bit OCD?

This thriftiness even spills over into utility costs.  This is part thriftiness/part being environmentally conscious.  I will never do laundry unless I have a full load (doing a small load of laundry may use less water, but it uses about the same amount of electricity/energy.)  The same goes for dishes--the space has to be extremely maximized, and I will use the same glass for an entire day.  Or, if I go out to eat (like to Chick-Fil-A), I will use that cup as long as possible to avoid having to dirty a dish, thereby extending further the time between washes.  Drew laughs at me because I don't even use an ice cream scoop for ice scream even though we have several--I will use the same spoon to dip my ice scream into my bowl as I use eating it.  If I make a casserole and we eat half of it, I will never move the remaining food into a new, smaller dish.  We don't lack fridge space and I would never want to dirty a new dish, as that is wasteful to me.  I could go on and on forever on the crazy little things I do.  I am thinking this may have come partly from my dad. 

Where did this thriftiness come from?

I remember growing up that he was always reminding us to turn out the lights when we left a room we were previously in.  This habit is so ingrained in me now, that I always turn off lights when I leave rooms.  Unfortunately, sometimes Drew is still in those rooms.  :-(  Also, Dad would drive an extra mile to save pennies per gallon on gas.  Although I complained about it as a child, now I completely understand as I have become much like him.  I love my cheap gas-finder app on my phone.

Now, on to the point of this post.  Many of my neighbors often put perfectly good things out to the curb for the garbage truck to pick up.  Well, other people's trash is definitely my treasure.  

I know that my thriftiness may be a little annoying at times.  Especially to Drew as he gets embarrassed when I knock on neighbor's doors to ask if I can have their junk.  But, here is picture proof of the benefits of my thriftiness.

Little Tikes Adjust 'N Jam Basketball goal:  found on neighbor's curb, left for trash pickup. (approx $50 new)

Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set ($594.49 on Amazon)--we paid $60 after searching daily on craigslist

Luke enjoys his new swingset!

Our Toddler Paradise--total cost, $60 (The little Tikes red/blue slide up front retails for $50 and was thrown in for free when we picked up the swing set).

Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox ($49.99 new at Target) and Step 2 Sandbox ($50 new)-- found free on neighbors' curb

Luke enjoys the slide on his new swingset.

Step 2 Naturally Playful Storybook Cottage ($400 new)--free from neighbor who was going to put it to curb.
So, in case you haven't been keeping track, this is the new vs. what we paid cost for this outdoor toddler paradise.

  • Step 2 Naturally Playful Storybook Cottage:  $400 new, we paid $0
  • Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set: $550-600 new, we paid $60
  • Little Tikes Basketball Goal: $50 new, we paid $0
  • Little Tikes Slide: $50 new, we paid $0
  • Sandboxes: $100 total new, we paid $0
Total Retail Price: $1200
We paid: $60 for a savings of $1140!

  Yes, some of the items are not perfect, but do you think this little toddler knows the difference?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Toddler Play

Jeremy and Traber after riding the train.

We had an action-packed visit with my brother and his family this past weekend.  We rode the Metrorail train to downtown Austin on Saturday.  Saturday was probably one of the craziest, busiest days in downtown Austin with the SXSW music festival, St. Patrick's Day and Spring Break all falling on the same day.   So, it may have not been the easiest day to take the little ones.  But, I think the boys got a kick out of riding the train and enjoying some pizza at Homeslice. 

The rest of the weekend involved going to fun parks, visiting a bouncy house with a foam pit, doing lots of shopping at two outlet malls and IKEA and eating delicious meals together.

The boys had fun playing outside in our backyard.

and they made an obstacle course out of this playscape at a nearby playground.

They really enjoyed jumping from this.

And, of course, boys love their cars!
We were all very entertained by Luke and his cousin, Traber.  Those two are a hoot.  They are only a month apart in age and they play so well together.  It was fun to watch them play and have conversations.  I was quite surprised at how polite they were with each other, using "please", "thank you", "you're welcome" and "I'm Sorry".

We captured some video this weekend of them playing together.  I put together a couple of clips that I thought were cute:

Lastly, while the boys were playing, we also captured a couple of cute pictures of Abbey in a new chair that we scored at the Pottery Barn Outlet this weekend:

Inflatable Slides, Bouncy houses and Foam Pits--Oh My!

Luke's cousin, Traber, loves bouncy houses.  So while they visited this past weekend, we went to a new bouncy house that we had never visited.  The boys had a blast, and I once again realized how little fear Luke has!

Of course they have the usual moonwalk-type bouncy houses at this place.  But, Luke and Traber's favorite things were the steep slides and the foam pits.  The slides were so steep that Drew and Jeremy had the kids lay back as they went down them to prevent them from toppling forward.  

Luke's turn to go down a slide.

and Traber's turn.

You can tell how steep the slide is in this picture.

I don't think the slide was quite as much fun for adults.  From Jeremy's expression here, it may have been a little painful.

We didn't even get a photo of the boys jumping in the bouncy houses, because they didn't spend more than a few seconds there.   This is where they spent most of their time:

Our Sweet Abbey Talking to Daddy

We haven't shared any videos of Miss Abbey, so we captured a few minutes of video of our sweet baby girl this past weekend.  If you listen closely, you will also hear Luke and his cousin, Traber, playing in the background.   Our poor baby has been sick with a respiratory infection and ear infection, but she began feeling better this weekend after a couple of doses of antibiotics. Although she only ate less than half of what she usually does this past week, I don't think it will affect her too negatively.   After all, she is in the 95th percentile height, over 90th percentile weight and her head circumference is off the charts.  The last time we weighed her, she was 13 lbs and 6 ounces.  So, other than this infection, she is a very healthy girl. 

Here is a video of our sweet girl talking to daddy.  Enjoy.

Our New Favorite Park

An overhead view of the park--it's huge!

The best free outdoor park that we have ever visited just opened a few weeks ago in our city.  This park is amazing! I call it a free, outdoor children's museum. We visited it first the Monday after it opened and knew we needed to bring some friends with us next time to experience it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Heidi of, did an excellent write-up on it after her family visited it.  Here is a link to that blog post.  The park is massive (over 51,000 square feet of enclosed fun) and I can tell it will be an excellent place to visit this summer.  The entire park is shaded so well with large live oaks and covered awnings.  The park is a "Play for All Abilities" park and is like no other.
A playscape with lots of ramps that Luke loves to run on!

Luke loved running on these ramps.

crawling through the rolling tunnel.

Luke and I visited the fire station in the little village.

The park includes several pods each intended to develop specific skills for all children including:
  • Retreat Pod
  • Sensory Pod-Sand Box
  • Rock Band Pod
  • Rolling Hill/Performance Lawn
  • Sensory Pod
  • All Abilities Playscape
  • All Ability Swings
  • Brushy Creek Village life skills area
We brought my brother, Jeremy, and his family (our sister-in-law, Brandy and nephew, Traber) to the park after they arrived to our house from Oklahoma this past Friday.  We had a blast and the boys didn't want to leave.  One of the things I LOVE about this park though is that it is completely fenced in.  So, if they did want to leave, it would be difficult for them to do so on their own.  These boys are fast, so we loved this safety feature as their parents.

Luke liked "rocking out" on the bongo drums in the musical pod.

Luke liked making this boat sway.

Here is a larger photo of the boat that you can make "sway".

Luke and Traber peek through a hole in a fun structure.

Even us adults enjoyed these spinning chairs.  Here, Traber is having fun on one.

and Luke spun on the other one.

This was one of my favorites--this chair rocks.
My brother, Jeremy, enjoyed it too.
some sensory pod activities.

 Here are a few more pictures of the park from the blog.

A photo of some of the buildings, streets and signs from the life skills village at the park.

Abbey Meets More Family for the First Time!

I am really behind on blog posts.  So, I am going to be rapid-firing posts over the next couple of days during Luke's nap time to catch up on journalling what's been going on around here.

A few weekends ago, we visited Drew's parents and sister and family in the Houston area to celebrate our nephew, Mitchell's, 11th birthday.  I can't believe he is already 11 years old!  He has grown up so quickly.  It was also the first time that Abbey would meet Drew's sister and her family.

We have found that with a newborn and a two year old, packing for trips is very difficult.  Each child has their own "things"--some physically necessary and others (like Luke's puppy and blankie) emotionally necessary.  Between trying to remember all of the necessary items, we completely forgot to bring our camera on this trip.  I am making a list next time for Drew and I to check off.  However, thanks to technology and our smart phones, we still captured some photo memories.  Of course, the quality is not as good as our camera, but I am glad we still snapped some pictures.

Erica meets Abbey.

Audrey was excited to "hold" Abbey for the first time.

Abbey really liked her cousin, Mitchell.

In this pic, Abbey is getting lots of lovin'.

Mitchell is getting ready to blow out the candles on his "dirt" cake.  Luke loved the cake and kept saying the worms were "funny".

The whole family. 
Erica did a great job on Mitchell's party.  We played lots of fun "minute to win it" games.  My team had an extra player as I wore Abbey in the K'tan carrier.   :-)

After the party, we were able to watch one of Mitchell's pre-season baseball scrimmage games.  Luke loved this. I was surprised that Mr. energizer bunny was able to sit still for so long during the game.  That right there shows you how much he enjoyed it!  He also learned a lot about the game of baseball from the time we were there.  When we returned home from the trip, he wanted to get his baseball tee set out and play.  He also got out Drew's old childhood baseball glove and now asks to play "catch".  He reminds us how he kept yelling "go Mitchell" during the game.  Luke sometimes even throws out some of the terminology he learned, like "strike", while he plays with his baseball set.

Three generations watching the baseball game.
We had a great time in Sugar Land, TX and look forward to seeing our Texas family again soon!