Parent’s Day @ Ballet!

Today was “Parent’s Day” at McKenzie’s ballet class, so we got to observe. It was so cute, and she had a lot of fun. =) There’s a recital on Sunday, so that should be cute too…but that goofy girl can’t keep her tongue in her mouth, she sticks it out whenever she’s focused (a la Michael Jordan). Ha. Baby boy was dancing around the whole time too. Gosh, I love that feeling. He’s getting stronger & stronger every day!

And if you’ve noticed that I’m blogging a bit more than usual, there are a couple reasons: 1) I’m trying to keep a record for Jon, and 2) I’m going a little stir-crazy with McKenzie by myself and craving an outlet/adult interaction. Ya dig? Sorry if I’m blowing up your inbox! (But not really…)

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A Great Week, In Sum

Time is going really fast lately, and I think that’s great! I miss Jon SO much and it can’t go fast enough. I’ve been staying really busy, and I have wonderful friends who take the time to come visit me & hang out. It’s pretty great. Here is the last week in sum:

Monday: In the morning I ran errands and then in the afternoon McKenzie and I had our little photo sesh with the baby shoes to announce the sex of the bebe. She’s such a good sport, it took all of 10 minutes…but then I locked us out of the building. A kindly neighbor let us in, but I need to make a *mental note to get spare keys and give them to Madison friends.* I spent the rest of the afternoon editing the photos & letting McKenzie play. BigCollageTuesday: This was McKenzie’s first day back at school from Spring Break, and THE BIG DAY to find out the sex of the baby! The appointment wasn’t until 4:30, so I cleaned house and did TONS of laundry (long overdue) to keep myself busy. While McKenzie was at school I took a long, glorious nap. I have been EXHAUSTED lately…the kind of tired that makes your eyelids feel like anvils on a thread. If you’ve been preggo, you know what I mean. When 4:30 FINALLY rolled around, we went to the appointment at Baby’s Debut here in Madison. Some people have asked McKenzie’s reaction to finding out she’s going to have a little brother…and honestly, her initial response was “EWWW! A penis!” Oh my gosh, it was hilarious. But she enjoyed seeing the baby too, and of course I love it. I would have an ultrasound every day if I could. This is my favorite pic, I think he looks so peaceful like he’s sleeping. And the technologist said everything looks great, so that’s always nice to hear. 10 fingers, 10 toes, healthy heart. At night, I wrote Jon a nice, long letter to mail off on Wednesday.wpid-KUEHL-BABY-BOY-16-WEEKS_18.JPG

Wednesday: Oh geez, I went and got my military ID at the local reserve office first thing in the morning. The photo is HORRENDOUS. I think the lady made me look like a troll on purpose. Blah. She was not friendly. And it’s so embarrassing, I’ll have to use it all the time! Urgh. I was not pleased. Anyway, I’d also had all the photos of Baby Boy printed at Walgreens, so I sent off a letter to Jon telling him the news. I’d contemplated calling the unit and asking if they could tell him, but I think a personal with photos is a little more romantical. Ya know? Then, around lunchtime my good friend Stephanie came into town for a sleepover. She’s a music teacher at an elementary school, and she brought a ukelele for McKenzie to play with. She is a rockstar with McKenzie! They sang and danced SO much, so of course McKenzie was head-over-heels! Many adorable moments ensued, including this “You Are My Sunshine” duet. *melt* We went to the mall after McKenzie was done with school. then had a lovely evening, complete with pizza & a Disney movie marathon.

Thursday: Since we’d had a sleepover, we got some delicious breakfast at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. The food was amazing, as always. Then Stephanie had to go home, and I took McKenzie to school…after which I had another long, glorious nap. Did I mention that the weather has been GORGEOUS? I’ve been walking the dogs to school when I drop-off/pick-up McKenzie and taking the long way back home. It adds up to 2.5 miles per day (1.25 round-trip, one way). Go me, that’s more than I’ve gotten in awhile. How sad. Darn Wisco winters. =/ I’m going to make a point of walking whenever the weather’s nice.

Friday: McKenzie has ballet Friday mornings, then after I quickly stopped into the doctor’s office. I’ve been having the most horrible itching…like widespread, horrible itching. Like, so bad it wakes me up. They were concerned it was early pre-eclampsia, but my blood pressure was fine, so they did some labs to test for something else that’s a little more scary. I should hear back about that tomorrow. After the short doc visit, our long-lost neighbor came to visit with her 2-year-old. What a handsome little guy! We got to chat while the kiddos played, and even took the dogs/kiddos to a nearby playground to get some energy out. She gave me a great idea for a future blog: balancing dogs & kids. It’s pretty rough some days, especially being alone lately. I feel so guilty sometimes, like I’m a terrible dog owner. =( Sooo, more to come on that another day.

Saturday: We finally got McKenzie a big girl bed! She was definitely outgrowing her toddler one, and she LOVES it. I had been looking for one for awhile, and finally settled on this one…and I’m SO pleased. It’s solid wood, very sturdy, and it was on sale for $189 when I bought it. Compared to some “standard” white twin bed frames I was looking at it was a steal! Plus, it’s a space saver, and she loves using the ladder. But I spent the ENTIRE day putting it together by myself and rearranging her room (although I’m not satisfied with the layout yet). The bed took 2 hours, but it was extremely easy. We don’t have the mattress yet, but I ordered the special 6″ bunk-bed mattress, so she’ll still have ample railing space still to prevent any rolling accidents, as per suggestions in the reviews. I do love that it’s not too high for her (chest height), so I’m not too worried about her falling. I would’ve loved a bed like this when I was a kid! I think I might put up a tension rod & some curtains underneath to make the “fort” even cooler.

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Sunday (today): We had a lazy morning…McKenzie slept in until 9! It was amazing. Around 1, we headed over to a 1st birthday party for my BFF’s identical twin boys! It was so cute, and her decor was awesome. It’s been so fun to watch them grow up the past year! And of course, McKenzie had fun playing with all the balloons. And there was pulled pork…the same to-die-for pulled pork recipe that I’ve posted. Yummm. Then McKenzie and I went to run some errands: a quick trip to the grocery store, and a successful trip to Michael’s (craft store)… To elaborate, I have been eying these adorable Easter Baskets at Pottery Barn Kids for the past 2 months, but I absolutely could not justify spending $30-$50 on an Easter basket…no matter how cute, even if it’ll be used every year. Anyway, at Michael’s all the Easter stuff was on clearance for 70% off, and I managed to score this Easter basket for a grand total of $5.60 (originally $16.99). I was pleased! It might not be *as* cute, but I think I can trick it out a bit. Either way, it’s definitely a cute upgrade. =)basketAll-in-all it was a great week. Finding out we’re having a BOY was definitely the highlight though. I look at those little ultrasound pictures every day. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe I’m even pregnant since I’m not that big yet! Soon enough. I’m sure I’ll be eating those words in a month. Lol. Today I am officially 17 weeks, but here is my 16 week photo since I forgot to post it last week. And no, I am not angry (as some FB commenters noted)…that is my straight face. Yes, I have an angry-looking straight face. Thanks for noticing. Haha. 16weeks.words

This week, we’re looking forward to going to visit Grandpa Jeff for a week in California. There is sure to be lots of yummy food, boat-riding, and dolphin-watching! Have a great week everyone. =)

Boy or Girl?!

Tomorrow is the big day! In less than 24 hours we should know if Baby #2 is a boy or girl! I am SO excited. I’ve wanted to know since the day I took the pregnancy test. ;)

So today I took these photos of McKenzie to announce the sex, using boy or girl newborn shoes. I’m so happy with how they turned out! Especially since I will be using these photos to announce the sex to Jon via snail mail (I finally have his address, and I was overjoyed to talk to him for 10 minutes yesterday for Easter!). Plus, I loved the pregnancy announcement photos involving McKenzie, so this was fun. I love that she gets to be a part of it. Do you like ’em? My only complaint is that the newborn shoes don’t look as little in her tiny hands! ;) Any last guesses?! Personally, I’m feeling boy since I’ve have 3 boy dreams in the past week. We shall see!BigCollage

DIY Kid’s Swimsuit Alteration: No More Falling Straps!

IMAG0420_1So, I’m not sure what clothing manufacturers are thinking, but McKenzie’s straps always fall off her shoulders: tank tops, swimsuits, dresses, etc. She doesn’t have super-broad shoulders, but I think she’s a pretty normal-sized kid. Am I alone here? Either way, I don’t like it. I prefer to keep my 4-year-old’s chest completely covered, thank you very much.

Anyway, as I mentioned in this post, we’ve been going to the YMCA lately for swimming. Last summer, I had actually tied dental floss in the middle to keep her straps from falling off (see above)! I was sick of it. Sooooo, today I decided to alter the shoulder straps (ie: cut & re-sewed them…just a needle & thread). I am SO pleased with the end-result. They stay perfectly and don’t fall off…it worked so well that I had to share!

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The “after.” The straps were originally two inches out to either side.

In the future maybe I’ll just look for halter swim suits, but if you have the same problem with your daughter’s clothes, I highly recommend this simple fix. =)

You spent $1,000 on a…WHAT?!?

Yes, it’s true. As I alluded to in this post, we got a 2012 Bugaboo Cameleon! (Pictured below is the color scheme we got.) If you don’t know anything about these strollers, it’s probably because they start at $979 brand new. Which is insane. I mean, who spends that much on a stroller?! That’s a lot of dough. It’s pretty sweet though…just look at it. But you know who turned me on to it? My momma. Bugaboo

You see, before McKenzie was born, my mom practically begged to buy us this stroller. She thought it was super cool. Awesome even. But I vehemently opposed the purchase of a $1,000 stroller.  I was like, “Geez Mom…for that price, would you please just buy the entire bedroom set AND a cheaper stroller/car-seat set?” But at the time, I wasn’t personally aware of the awesomeness that is the Bugaboo Cam. Until now.

When we found out about Baby #2, I started thinking about strollers immediately, so of course my mind drifted to the Bugaboo, which my mom had liked so much. I did TONS of research. Read hundreds of reviews. Etc. And I came to the same conclusion: it’s pretty awesome. It has a sweet bassinet (w/ a foam mattress!). It’s car-seat compatible. It can be forward or rear-facing. It has 6 different positions. Adjustable suspension (no kidding!). Heavy-duty foam tires. A reversible, height-adjustable handlebar. On top of all that, it’s relatively compact, and everything is machine washable…and according to the legends, you can push this bad-boy with one hand, no problem.

McKenzie will be 5 by the time the baby is born…which, I’ve decided, is a little old to be using a stroller…don’t you think? So I quickly ruled out double strollers. ((As a hilarious side-note, check out www.toobigforstroller.com for photographic evidence of this phenomena, if you could use a laugh.)) BUT, that said, if I’m going on a long, work-out-style walk, it might be too far for her little legs. Enter: the Bugaboo’s roller-board! I had never heard of these…but it folds up or detaches easily when not in-use…the perfect solution to my problem! I can still use a single stroller, but my kindergartener can ride along if she’s tired. Brilliant.

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Anyway, so I decided to go ahead with my Mom-inspired purchase, but I was still completely opposed to paying full-price. No freakin’ way am I dropping $1,000 on a stroller. So I began obsessively checking Craigslist and eBay. Unfortunately, not a lot of people in Madison, WI (or even Milwaukee) use Bugaboo strollers. And on eBay, they were pretty beat-up. Then, I had a genius idea: my step-dad lives in Orange County, California…so I searched the Craigslist there, and there were pages of Bugaboo listings. Score!

I kept my eye on them, and found a 2012 stroller, listed for $450 with car seat adapter + other accessories included. My lovely step-dad swooped over and scooped it up at my request…and after some bargaining, the final price was $375!  It’s still a lot for a stroller (I know), but we didn’t spend $1,000 on it. We managed to get a *mint* condition Bugaboo Cam for almost 65% off. I’m stoked, and I can’t wait to push Baby #2 around in it! And the best part is: I know my momma would approve. ;)

“Masking Tape Racetrack” & Some Other Things

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McKenzie doesn’t have school (4K) on Mondays, and I can never figure out what to do during the day. The Children’s Museum is closed on Mondays. It’s snowy and crappy outside. What do I DO? Urgh. I’ve been taking her to the mall (across the street) to play on the kiddie playground inside. It feels so…trashy. Anyway, I remembered seeing this idea on Pinterest (don’t know where), and decided to give it a shot. The “Masking Tape Racetrack” was a hit! Hours of entertainment with her MatchBox cars. Tomorrow we’re going to build a town with her wooden blocks and set up some train tracks nearby. She can entertain herself with imagination play for hours. =) *Note: I used regular masking tape & a black Sharpie marker…I triple checked and it did NOT bleed through. And it’s super easy to peel off!*

6 Other Things in My Day:

  1. A moment of nervousness: We had Part I of our “First Trimester Screen” for Baby #2 this morning. Just some blood-work and informational stuff. It made me nervous though. Just thinking something could be wrong with the baby. Ya know? When I was pregnant with McKenzie, one of the blood tests came back showing a higher risk for Down Syndrome (her odds were 1/180…which was very high for being age 21 at the time). We opted not to have the CVS or Amniocentesis done with her, but I was nervous the whole time. The first thing I asked when she was born was, “Is she okay?” Of course, she was fine. But if one of the tests is flagged this time around, I might opt for the CVS or Amnio simply to have the peace of mind. Hopefully it’s a non-issue.
  2. A moment of disappointment: At the aforementioned appointment, they dashed my hopes of finding out the sex at the ultrasound on March 7th. BOO! I hear there’s a private ultrasound center that will do it for like $65, so maybe it’s worth it? I know it’s still early, but I really want to know before Jon leaves (if we can). Did anyone have accurate results early? =/
  3. A moment of hilariousness: Today we saw a homeless man walking down the road while we were driving by our local grocery store, and McKenzie said, “Look Momma, I think it’s a ZOMBIE!” Oh. My. God. I laughed SO HARD! [[She was dead serious though…so we had a long talk about homelessness, mental health, and addiction. And yes, I really did that with my 4-year-old (with age-appropriate dialogue, of course). I firmly believe honesty is the best policy, and sheltering her will only make her naïve. It was an excellent “teachable moment” and I don’t think it’s ever to early to start reinforcing the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She’s gonna be a realist!]]
  4. A moment of elation: Vincenzo is GONE! Hellz-to-the-YEAH! I confirmed with property management that his sister removed him from the premises on Saturday. It’s so much quieter already. And his name is gone from the mailbox and everything! Woo! It made me a little giddy. ;)
  5. An update:  Cali’s tail is completely healed! The tip is growing hair, and it almost looks normal again…even though half is shaved. (That’s what she said! Haha.) Anyhow, it doesn’t look too weird either…I guess her tail was super-long, because two inches is barely noticeable. =)
  6. A future post: I know it’s long overdue, but my next post will be about my awesome new stroller, although I don’t physically have it in my possession yet. And don’t worry, I didn’t pay full price…not even close. I’ll let ya know how I pulled that off, too. ;) And I’ll explain my emotionally-motivated rationale for choosing this particular stroller in the first place (other than the fact it’s the Rolls Royce of strollers). Have a great week, everyone!

Crunch Time

Valentine's 2013 FlowersWe had a great Valentine’s Day! I woke up to not one, but two beautiful flower arrangements & a sweet note from my wonderful husband. Our romantic evening in Milwaukee was so much fun (although, let’s be honest: the February horse-drawn carriage ride in Wisconsin was a little torturous). As expected, the food was amazing, and we had a beautiful river-view from our hotel room. I would say dinner was the highlight…we got to order whatever we wanted off the menu! Whatever. We. Wanted. I didn’t snap any pictures because I wanted to feel “present” in the moment with Jon, so my apologies (or not). We really did have a great time.

On that note, it’s crunch time: Jon leaves for the Army 3 weeks from today. It’s getting so close! I do a really good job of NOT thinking about things until they’re here…I think it’s a protective mechanism for me, but it helps me to enjoy the moments we still have without anxiety about the future. So overall, I think it’s a good thing. It won’t be real until we get back to the empty house without him. =( I figure we won’t see him for about 3 months. While he’s training, I plan on staying busy with McKenzie and going on a few trips.

As I mentioned in this post, my sister and her husband are closing on their first home on March 15th, so we’ll definitely make the trek to Minnesota to visit them and see the new place. I’m super excited for them. Any good housewarming gift ideas? We also plan on visiting my step-dad (Grandpa Jeff) in Laguna Niguel, California. Not a bad place to visit! He loves taking us out on his boat to see dolphins, seals, & whales on the weekends. We were out there for McKenzie’s birthday in August, and we always have a blast.

In other news, I have another doctor’s appointment this week. I’m hoping we’ll get to hear the little peanut’s heartbeat.7wks4days

 

Raising Children: The Power of Positive

I have a confession: we rarely say “no” to McKenzie. Now, that’s not to say we let her do whatever she wants…that would not fly. BUT according to one UCLA study, the average 1-year-old hears “no” more than 400 times a day. That’s a lot! And that really stuck with me. So for us, instead of focusing on what she can’t do, we focus on what is acceptable behavior. We make a concerted effort to be positive, and I think it’s made a huge difference in her life! She has a very positive attitude, and now that she’s more independent she needs less direction. And isn’t that our goal as parents? To raise happy, self-directed children?

FBHeaderSunsetNow, of course kids need tough guidance here and there (especially where their safety is concerned), but it can easily be achieved without saying “no.” When she was younger, we’d simply say, “We don’t do that, let’s do this instead…” (redirect) but now that she’s older we’ll ask, “Do we do that? Is that acceptable behavior?…Why not?” And she answers us every time.

Another example is, “We don’t do that, because we could get really hurt if we play with the stove. It doesn’t feel good to be hurt, does it?” Yes, we actually say that…sometimes harshly. We are still firm, but instead of yelling “No, no, no,” she understands why. ((Adding the “because” also does an excellent job staving off the “why?” stage…because you’ve already answered the question.))Positive-Thinking1

Other times, when she asks for candy, a toy, or something else, instead of saying “no,” we’ll reply, “Oh, of course you can have it! After your nap/After lunch/After you clean your room/Tomorrow after school/etc.” Sometimes she fusses, but she responds very differently than she would to a flat-out “no.” And any ensuing argument is quickly remedied by, “Well would you like ______ after school, or not? We don’t reward this kind of behavior.” By responding to her requests in a positive way, she knows that she will eventually get what she wants, which in turn teaches her the importance of delayed gratification (for a fascinating Stanford Study on children, linking delayed gratification and future life success read this Wiki article).

And you may have noticed we really focus on her behavior. It makes me sad when I hear a parent say, “You’re a bad boy,” or “You’re a naughty girl.” To a degree, children internalize those words, so I think it’s really important for parents to emphasize that it’s the behavior & actions that are “bad” or unacceptable, and that doesn’t make the child “bad.” After all, every child misbehaves. Now, of course there’s something to be said about “Nature & Nurture”…obviously each individual has predispositions. BUT, I firmly believe that the way we interact with McKenzie influences her behavior in a positive way. It’s simple to change small words we use with our children to create a more positive environment.

I have an obsession with seat belts.

Maybe it started when I was little…my dad would routinely say, “You will die if you do not wear your seat belt.” (Well, that’s an attorney for ya…he also told us we couldn’t have a tree house because it was a “liability.” And in case you’re wondering, my first sentence was: “Daddy, will you buy me an irrevocable trust.” Truth.) So perhaps that’s the origin of my obsession? I don’t know. All I know is this: McKenzie must ALWAYS be buckled in properly. Always. And I always wear my seat belt.

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Why would I do anything to jeopardize the life of this precious little girl? (The chest clip here is even a little low for my taste…I’d move it up an inch.)

I absolutely CRINGE when people post “cute” photos on Facebook of their children in their carseats sleeping and their 5-point harness is buckled wrong. Oh. My. God. CRINGE. All I can think is, “Seriously?!?! Do you want your child to die?!” Now, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic…but am I?

According to the CDC’s Child Passenger Safety Fact Sheet, “Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.” Furthermore, “Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. One study found that 72% of 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.” To translate: nearly 3 out of 4 children are not buckled in properly.

So maybe I’m not overreacting? Parents.com made a list of 8 Common Carseat Mistakes to Avoid. My biggest pet peeves are: #3 Infant turned forward-facing too soon (American Association of Pediatrics recommends 2 years! Better a broken leg than a broken neck.) and #5 Using the retainer clip incorrectly (“The retainer clip should be at armpit level, resting across your child’s breastbone. The clip assures that the harness straps are in the right place. When the retainer clip is in the wrong place, the straps can easily slip off a child’s shoulders, and the child is at risk of being ejected from her seat in a crash.”)

Two more facts for ya: The safest spot in the car is the center seat in the back (next is the rear-passenger seat), and children are not supposed to wear coats in their carseats (although I have been known to break this rule, I’m not perfect).

Sometimes McKenzie says that the clip is choking her…but I know it’s not. I’d rather have her be safe & uncomfortable than the alternative. And she gets over it quickly.

Sorry for the lecture. But not really. Keep your kiddos safe. Proof I practice what I preach:

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Back from Mexico

We got back from Mexico on Saturday and we had a great time! It had a bumpy start when my luggage was left in the US for an extra day, so I went 1 day wearing the same clothes…and we basically lost a day because the sunscreen was in my bags. *sigh* Thankfully though, my parents always told me to pack a swimsuit & other essentials in my carry on. Smart people. The first night we ventured into town and splurged on some lobster…one word: amazing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also, I think I mentioned in a previous post that it was adults-only, topless-optional. I was brave & went topless. Oh yes, I did! I was shocked myself, but let me tell you: when you’re literally the only one in sight with your top on, you feel like a prude. So I figured, “Fuck it, at least I won’t have tan lines.” It was glorious, and unusually freeing. I definitely loved the care-free, relaxed environment. The motto was, “Nobody knows you, nobody gives a shit.” Nice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe food also was excellent, the staff was wonderful, and the drinks were amazing. Cancun was nice because we were able to venture out into town & we weren’t stranded on the resort. Unfortunately, the last 2 days were rainy & chilly, and was very glad to have my jacket! Otherwise, we enjoyed fun in the sun and I read the book “The Poisonwood Bible,” which was very good. Definitely not something I would usually read for enjoyment, but great nonetheless. I usually love James Rollins, Clive Cussler, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child…my “adventure” books as I call them.

We had our own little adventure and Jon moved one of the beds onto the balcony. It was fun. We didn’t leave it out there, but it was cool just chillin out there. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can tell, I didn’t bring my “nice” camera with me on the trip because it’s heavy & bulky, but I found some old gems that I never uploaded from when McKenzie was 3 from our point-and-shoot…crazy what a difference a year makes!  Such a sweetie. McKenzie had a lot of fun with her Nina (grandma) while we were gone, and it was great to be able to FaceTime with her every day. It’s funny: when you have kids it’s just as fun coming home to see your kiddos! A bonus to parenting, for sure.IMG_0002 IMG_0011 IMG_0018 IMG_0037 IMG_0038OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Annnnnnnnnnnnd I’m definitely missing that “chilly” 65˚F in Mexico…it’s 5˚F here in Wisconsin with a windchill below zero! Yuuuuuuuuuuuuck.