Hello 2019!

Even though I can still hardly believe it, we’re in a brand new year, here, folks!

January to December 2018

I didn’t get around to blogging as much as I wanted to at the end of the year, mainly due to all of the crazy, hectic, and awesome holiday and family activity that happened in the final weeks of 2019… coupled with the most awful, terribly, horrible, no good cold that I’ve been battling for ETERNITY (or at least, like, 10 days now!).

So, yes, the sickness is tres lame, but at least our holiday was great! My whole family spent over a week down at my sister’s house in the greater Atlanta area, and although there’s really nothing chill about a household filled with 8 adults, 5 kids 5-and-under, and 5 dogs, it was still a relatively low-key and very pleasant holiday.

Sean and I actually survived the drive down to Atlanta with Penny and the three dogs (our two + my brother’s) okay, although traffic getting out of the DC area put a serious crimp in our style and added a few extra hours to the trip, so we ended up stopping overnight around Charlotte and finishing the drive the following day. Not what I was hoping for, but all’s well that ends well!

I had made the heinous mistake of agreeing to run a Christmas Eve 5K with my sister and one of her friends a few months ago, and while I’d been kinda-sorta training a wee bit, I definitely overestimated my abilities, lol. It was NOT my best showing. But, whatever, I did it, and it was the first run I’ve completed in I can’t even tell you how long, so even though it was a horrifying showcase of my complete lack of stamina and cardiovascular abilities, I’m still, like, kinda proud? Idk.

Anyway, everything after that was pretty much smooth sugary, Christmas-tastic sailing — cookie decorating, Christmas-movie-watching, gingerbread-house making, carol-singing, cooking, eating, playing with the kiddos, taking innumerable photos of everyone, and constantly wearing matching EVERYTHING… pretty much all my favorite things!

After the rest of my family returned home, Sean & I capped off our visit with a trip to the Georgia Aquarium with my sister, nieces, and nephew.

Yeah, I wasn’t gonna pay $30 for this picture, but it’s the only proof we got of all of us being there together hahaha.

It was actually kind of an insane thing to do, considering we went on the SATURDAY of a holiday weekend (before New Year’s), and like, every other person who lives in Georgia also decided to the do the same. But despite the crowds it was a great time nonetheless. We got to see the dolphin show, which I’ve never actually seen despite having visited the Aquarium twice before, and Penny was super fascinated by the underwater tunnel.

And thankfully, our drive home was pretty smooth and uneventful! It went much quicker than the drive down since we hit absolutely no traffic, and the dogs were really well-behaved on the way back. It was a little bit trickier since most of our trip down was at night, after Penny’s bedtime, and this time it was mostly during the day. So Penny didn’t really nap as much as I was hoping, but I think I still way preferred driving during the day. Even with her being awake, she’s such a good little kid, she didn’t protest too much until we were almost at the end — we definitely got lucky!

But, alas, being home hasn’t been all that wonderful since, as I have mentioned like 1032849 times, I’ve been sick aaaand it’s definitely thrown me for a loop. ‘Cause I mean, you know, being sick sucks on its own, but it sucks doubly when you’re just coming back from a huge break from work and trying to figure out how to get back on the horse there, and then it sucks TRIPLY when you throw a tiny human into the mix… but! I’m trying to claw myself back to a place of normalcy — both health, work, and routine-wise. Our suitcases are 100% still sitting on the floor of our bedroom, totally still packed, and I’ve basically gotten nothing but the bare minimum done since our return from Georgia, but hey, there’ll be time, right?

I’m holding out hope for a magical burst of productivity and energy once I’m really feeling better — which is why I’m waiting to watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix until I’m feeling better too, because I’m counting on becoming possessed by the house purging spirit and want to get rid of our entire household of stuff as soon as I queue up the first episode. *fingers crossed*

Anyway, I hope that you all had an awesome holiday, a wonderful end to your year, and are jumping into 2019 with a sense of excitement, resolve, and/or contentment! I’m hoping to be able to hold onto all three sentiments as we move into this new year… we’ll see!

Holiday Hubbub!

Hi and hello there! I hope everyone is having a fantastic lead-in to Christmas week! This month has been a complete and utter whirlwind so far, but in the best possible way! I’ve been staying really busy with work, family, time with friends, and gearing up for our trip to my sister’s for Christmaaaaas!

Somehow despite the craziness that everyone is dealing with, we found time to ring in my brother Ben’s 35th birthday with a little family dinner celebration. Marnie is so flippin’ cute! I can’t wait to see her experience her first Christmas.

Other festive celebrations included getting together with a group of my wonderful mommy friends for a playdate and surprisingly successful cookie decorating party!

Not quite as successful was the attempted group photo of the kiddos, but, hey, at least we get points for trying?

And since we’re doing Christmas with my family again this year, we also had a little mini Christmas dinner with Sean’s family last weekend. We’ll also be seeing them again for Christmas Part II when we get back, but Sean’s mom had a couple of gifts for Penny to open (she still doesn’t really “get” opening gifts, but I had fun opening them! Haha), and we had a damn fine dinner. Plus, the Foxes always have their house decorated so perfectly for the holidays!

It hasn’t all been sunny and positive and fun festive things, though. Unfortunately on Monday Harry had an accident where he tore one of his toenails off, and apparently doggy foot wounds bleed a LOT (it seriously looked like a murder scene), so I totally flipped out and rushed him to the pup ER. Luckily, he’s okay but has to wear the cone of shame for a while so he doesn’t continue to mess with it. My poor old man dog!

But back on the positive side, I also had the opportunity to attend our very first Yelp Holiday Party with the new DC office! My fellow community managers and besties, Mike, Kimberly (and our boss Tara), have always had a little lunch celebration of our own in years past (and we did so again this year), but it is kind of a cool perk of having a “real” office here now that we also get a “real” holiday party!

My final work events are officially done with for the year, so this week has been primarily about wrapping up the year and getting ready (and mentally prepared) for the road trip down to Atlanta! It’s going to be Penny’s longest (by FAR) car trip yet, plus we’re taking all three members of the Schnauzer Squad…. should be an adventure!

 

I asked for tips on how to survive the trip on Instagram, and got some amazing ideas, so THANK YOU if you’re one of the ones who responded. We’re going to try to do it one go (with contingencies and backup plans, lol), so I got a bunch of new toys and books to offer Penny throughout the trip, and we will be loaded up with sooooo many snacks… it’s gonna be fine, right? RIGHT??

Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m so nervous about the trip. It’s not even like I’ve never made this drive before! I’ve done it with my sister and HER kids (and even her dogs once or twice!), but for some reason now that it’s gonna be with Sean and Penny and my gaggle of high-strung terriers, I’m feeling pretty anxious.

But hey, it’ll all work out, right? I mean, just look at this face! And, of course, I’m really really looking forward to being together with my WHOLE family for Christmas again this year. Bring on the gingerbread house and cookie decorating and present wrapping and eggnog drinking and all the general holiday hubbub! Also, my sister and I are running a 5K on Christmas Eve so, you know, if you’re gonna be sending good thoughts into the universe for our road trip, please add a couple extra ones for that, lollllll cry.

I hope that you all have the very happiest of holidays, a very merry Christmas, and an absolutely wonderful New Year if I don’t make it back for another update before then!

Toddler Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Aloha, friends! We’re straight up barreling towards Christmas here, which means festive fashion is in full force, Santa has been visited (Penny was very skeptical this year), and I’ve got about, ehhhh, 60% of my Christmas shopping done?

 

Which, I know, doesn’t sound too bad, but normally I’m a Black Friday-loving, early-present-buying kinda gal, so I’m starting to feel just a wee bit anxious over not being even close to done, haha.

But I’m hoping that I’m not the only one who’s not done with their holiday shopping yet, because I’ve also been meaning to do ye ol’ holiday gift guide roundup for several weeks now, but you know, life. Heh. And I know that many of you have probably gotten a lot of your shopping done already, which is great! But for those of you who might still be looking for ideas on what to gift your little ones this holiday season, I’ve put together a list based on the things that Penny’s either really loving right now, or the things that made it onto her (*coughmycough*) wishlist this year!

Some of the following links are affiliate links, which means if you click through and buy something, I may earn a small payment (at no additional cost to you.) 

If you’d like recommendations on items for the first year, either as Christmas gifts, baby shower presents, or just stuff to put on your own registry, feel free to check out my Baby Stuff Recommendations posts: Months 1 – 3, Months 3 – 8, and Months 8 – 12.

Stocking Stuffers

Skip Hop Fork & Spoon and Straw Cup

 

Penny’s getting more and more interested in utensils when eating lately, so Santa’s putting a “real” pair of metal utensils in her stocking. We also already have been using the Unicorn version of the Skip Hop straw cup, so I picked up the Fox version to match. These cups are great to use BUT I will warn you that the print on her unicorn cup totally scratched off. From my sister’s experience, some of the prints stay on perfectly well, and some of them scratch off soooo guess we’ll see if Fox beats Unicorn!

Munchkin Miracle 360 Cups (10 oz) and Lids!

 

We’re also graduating to the handleless Miracle 360 sippy cups, in a larger size! And Munchkin recently came out with lids for these beauties as well, which is great because Penny now prefers these and this way I can toss them in my diaper bag without fearing drips or leaks.

Triangular Crayons & My First Coloring Book

 

Penny has been showing an increased interest in coloring, crayons, markers, and the like. It’s still like, a 50/50 split between her attempting to draw and attempting to eat her drawing utensils (siiiiiigh), but I figured that this means it might be a good time for her first real coloring book! I’m pairing it with these triangular crayons that are supposed to be easier for little-little ones to learn to hold.

Dimpl

Fat Brain’s Dimpl toy has so many 5-star reviews on Amazon, it’s staggering! Parents are just so pleased with how much enjoyment their kiddos get out of it, and how deeply they can focus on playing with it. I picked it up as a stocking stuffer for Penny, but I have a feeling we’ll be busting it out early for her to play with on the 9-hour (!!) car ride to my sister’s for Christmas this year, hehe.

Children’s Headphones

Penny is still getting used to wearing these kiddo headphones, but they ended up working really well for us on our last flight to and from Atlanta to visit my sister. They have a volume limit so little ears won’t get hurt, but were clear enough to be heard over the roar of the plane noise, so a good balance! They plug into your device, so while they don’t have the convenience of being wireless, you also don’t need to charge them or replace any batteries. And they’re very reasonably priced too, and while they fit her at 15 months, they also expand so hopefully she’ll get a lot of future use out of them!

Knee Socks

Penny is basically a real-life doll, and dressing her up is SO FUN. I love these knee socks that I picked up on Amazon a few months back, as the colors compliment so many of her outfits and they’re so much more convenient for diaper changes than tights! They’re actually more like thigh-socks right now, haha, but I guess that just means they’ll be able to grow with her for a while!

Gifts

First Toothbrush Set, Toddler Toilet

Ahhh, the glamorous side of gifting. Penny’s finally got 8 glorious teeth, which means we are (trying) to get into the habit of brushing them. This Dr. Brown’s set comes with a soft bristle toothbrush that looks like an elephant from the top, and baby-friendly toothpaste.

I also put a potty on her Christmas list this year, even though we are probably not anywhere close to starting the potty training process yet, I know it’ll be here before we know it! And at least this Summer Infant one looks just like a teeny tiny grown-up toilet (complete with flushing sounds!) which I think Penny will love.

Cuddle + Kind Dolls

 

Penny’s favorite things in this world are her stuffed unicorns from Cuddle + Kind (we have the same one, Zoe, in both the small and large size). These handmade dolls are a bit pricey, but it’s for a good reason, as every purchase helps feed children in need around the world and they’re absolutely beautiful. Cuddle + Kind released a new doll last month — a flamingo somewhat unfairly named “Penelope,” so obviously I couldn’t just pass that up! If you live in North America, it’s not too late to order a doll before Christmas, and they’re offering free shipping right now!

OneKid Road Coat

 

I was complaining on Instagram about how annoying it is to constantly have to put on and take off Penny’s coats when getting her in and out of her carseat, and my friend responded recommending the OneKid Road Coat — a winter coat that is safe to keep on in the carseat! And then another friend of mine reached out and said she had scored an extra one on Facebook Marketplace for half-price, and would I be interested? Heck yes! It’s awesome — there’s two layers to the front: one super thin (like windbreaker-type material) and then the fluffier down layer. You just unzip the outer layer and pull it outside of the straps when buckling into the carseat — that way, you don’t need to loosen the straps to make it fit over the jacket (which is what makes it unsafe) at all! I love it, and now I want to order the unicorn print version in her next size up. 😉

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Klip Klop Horses & Castle

 

Penny finds these little horses so fascinating, and the Disney lover in me loves them because, hello? Princesses! Each little horse comes with a ramp (and feeding trough, heh), and then they also can be used on the larger castle. The castle has been discontinued, but you can still purchase the Klip Klop horses new on Amazon. Even better, scour Facebook Marketplace and you might be able to score the castle AND the horses like I did for an absolute steal! $8 for the entire set!!!

Fisher Price Classics Cash Register

This thing makes me feel nostalgic like whoa — I have so many fond memories of playing with one EXACTLY like it when I was a kid, and I’m so excited that it’s BACK. She’s still a little bit young for it, but she’s really starting to “get” how things work and is just starting to touch on pretend play, so I know that this thing (coupled with a play kitchen, which is definitely something we plan on getting her eventually) will provide tons of imaginative play for years!

Halo Early Walker SleepSack

I’ve dabbled in weaning her off of wearing her sleepsack for all her sleeps, but it hasn’t gone so well. She’s pretty attached to her sleepsack, and that’s fine with me, especially going into these cold winter months since she still has no clue how to use a blanket, lol. However, now that she’s so mobile, she will stand up and try to walk around in her crib, in the sleepsack, which often results in her tripping and falling into the rails. Not so fun. So we’ve started using the Early Walker kind where she can slip her feet out of the holes when she stands up (but still deters her from trying to climb over thankfully!)

Skip Hop Explore & More Kids Chairs

I’m already a huge fan of the Skip Hop Explore & More Activity Table, which Penny has used since she was around 5 or so months old, and these chairs are the perfect accompaniment to it now that we’ve converted it into a real table for her to play on! These chairs were super easy for me to put together and they’re sturdy enough to hold a grown-up’s weight (well, I’ve never tried putting *my* weight on them, but both my mom and sister-in-law have sat in them without issue.)

Nugget Comfort

I’ve been obsessed with the Nugget ever since I stumbled upon them on Instagram, and this foam kid’s couch is at the tippy top of Penny’s wishlist. It’s supposed to be awesome for imaginative play as well as occupational therapy — yes, you can use it like a couch, but you can also can build forts, turn it into a slide, and way more! It also stacks up to save space when not in use. My brother and I already are surprising our sister’s kids with one for Christmas (couldn’t quite be a surprise for my sister & bro-in-law though since it has to be unboxed as soon as it arrives.) They do take some time to ship, so alas, it’s unfortunately too late to get one in time for Christmas Day. But if you’re okay with gifting a belated Christmas present, or just want to keep something in mind for future birthdays or holidays, this is a pretty cool, multipurpose gift!

Books

I could honestly make a list that’s pages and pages and pages of just book recommendations, because I LOVE books, and I hope that Penny develops a lifelong love for them, too! Like, I’m literally counting down the days until I can start reading the Harry Potter Illustrated versions to her. ::starry eyed emoji:: Anyway, these are just some of my current favorites and recommendations:

Emma Dodd Books

These books are sooooo beautiful — honestly, they’re more for me than for Penny right now, since they’re not board books, but the illustrations are gorgeous, and they’re printed on pages with foil detailing and more!! They always have a very simple and sweet storyline to them. I have like 10!

Dear Zoo

Without a doubt, this is Penny’s favorite book in the world, and because it also only has like 100 words total in addition to the flaps for her to lift, it’s also the only book I’m ever able to actually finish reading to her before she gets bored. I bring it up constantly because she’s just obsessed!

A Unicorn Named Sparkle and Uni the Unicorn

And these are the books I’m obsessed with on her behalf, hahaha. I mean, hello! Unicorns!! These books are both super sweet and come in either board book or regular book form, depending on what’s more appropriate for your kiddo. Sparkle is a little more tongue-in-cheek/goofy, and Uni has kind of a meta/self-awareness angle to it. They’re both really fun!

Never Touch A… Series

  

More touchy-feely books that are a lot of fun for toddlers! They’re very similar to the Usborne “That’s Not My…” series of books, but with a little more texture on the pages and a goofier vibe.

Gaston & Antoinette

The sweetest books about how family is about more than looks, genetics, and fitting in! They’re real story books, so Penny is still a little bit young to be able to fully enjoy, but I love reading the story to her and can’t wait until she starts to really appreciate it on her own.

Holiday Books: Dear SantaSanta’s Workshop Lift-a-Flap, Construction Site on Christmas Night

 

In case you’re in the market for any holiday-specific books, these ones are keepers! The first two are both lift-the-flap board books, which are Penny’s favorite, and “Dear Santa” is by the same author as “Dear Zoo”, and we have another book by the same author as “Santa’s Workshop” that she adores (another good one called “Babies in the Forest“). Sean works in the construction industry, so we are already fans of the “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” books, and so this Christmas-themed sequel had to make the list!

And okay, that’s all I can come up with for now! If you have any other recommendations on things that your littles loved at this age and up (15 months+), drop ’em in the comments! And I hope you’re all having an awesome holiday season so far!

Thanksgiving Recap & Christmas Ahoy!

Happy December, everyone!

I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday (though I know I’m already like, 2 weeks late on the well-wishes for that… it’s been busy around here!). Sean, Penny, my parents, and I all joined Sean’s family for Thanksgiving this year, and it was epic. Penny enjoyed turkey but really went wild for the homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that I contributed to dinner, which made me swell with pride.

We also had a mini-second-Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house with Ben, Taylor, and Marnie (who spent actual Turkey Day with Tay’s family) and because of course my mom randomly happened to have an entire second turkey that she needed to cook. Oh well, any excuse for more tryptophan-induced food comas is A-OK by me!

Going back to my parents’ house this week also gave us the opportunity to help my dad pull out some holiday decorations, and had me tripping down memory lane when I found an old photo album filled with baby pictures of yours truly! Which confirmed what lots of strangers stop to tell me anytime I’m out with Penny, which is that she really is my mini!!

 

Well, my strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed mini. 😉

And actually, turns out I got quite a bit of extra time in with my parents over Thanksgiving week, since the weekend after I went with them to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Decade of Disney concert.

 

Sadly, my Thanksgiving weekend did not end on a tremendously high note, as Sunday I came down with some kind of crazy stomach bug / food poisoning / some kinda something that had me hugging the porcelain throne all night long. UGH. Not sure what happened there, but it had me pretty much out of commission for most of Sunday and Monday. Blech.

I’m feeling much better now, but between getting sick after returning from Atlanta, Thanksgiving, and then that lovely ’bout of illness, it had been a seriously hot minute since I’d been to the gym or worked out at all. I also made the potentially grave error of agreeing to a Christmas Eve 5K with my sister and some friends, however, so I knew that I needed to get back on the horse soon.

I felt better on Tuesday, so I managed to drag myself to the gym and put in a half-hearted workout. Not great, but it was something. And then on Wednesday and Friday, I managed to do some real running and real lifting. Training-wise, even on the mend from being sick, I managed to make it to 1.6 miles, so hopefully by the time 12/24 rolls around I’ll actually be able to do the full 5K.

  

Anyway, that pretty much catches us up to today! And as today is, y’know, December, this officially means we are BRINGING ON THE CHRISTMAS CHEER!!

You can find me (and Penny… and the dogs…) dressed festively for the next 22 days and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

 

On the work-front, I’ve got my regional summit the first half of this upcoming week, so I’ll be camping out at Yelp’s DC office pretty much nonstop for the next couple of days. We all had dinner together last night, and it was great — I love getting to see so many of my coworkers (we all work remotely, so it’s one of the few opportunities each year for all of us to get together), but as I’m sure anyone who’s ever had a work conference derail your daily duties a bit, it’s also for sure going to make for a bit of a crazy week.

And even though I so treasure this time spent with my regional team, it is a teeeeny bit bittersweet. I mean, it’s really only because I’m so spoiled, but even though Penny goes to daycare twice a week, I’ve never had to worry about stuff like traffic and commuting during rush hour — this morning will be my first taste of that. So I’m dropping her off extra early and will just have make peace with the fact that the 20 minutes I spent with her first thing in the morning is the only time I’m gonna get with my girl over the next couple of days (since I’ll be getting home loooooong after she’s gone to bed.) I know, I know, this is the daily reality for tons of parents so I should probably just shut my face. It’s just not my daily reality, so it makes me a little wistful. Also, she hardly eeeeeever naps at daycare so, you know, pray for Sean.

Anyway, on that optimistic note, I’ll bid you adieu for now! Hope everyone has a super fun, festive week as we really start getting into the holiday spirit, and Happy Hanukkah to my friends who are celebrating!

 

Catching Up

I know how trite it is to say, but I can’t help it: I am in total shock that Thanksgiving is a mere 2 days away. Like, I just… I mean… how?!

This time of year always goes by really quickly, but this feels like it’s on a whole other level. I think that Thanksgiving coming early has a little bit to do with it, as does the fact that I’ve just been in a total tizzy of nonstop activity since Halloween.

Penny and I have come and gone from another successful trip to Atlanta to visit my sister, which is always so wonderful. And it’s, of course, even more fun now that Penny actually shows excitement and affection for her cousins (and vice-versa!)

 

There were carousel rides and gymnastics birthday parties and all sorts of fun stuff for her to do while we were down there — we had a blast!

 

I also got to see Ed Sheeran in concert while I was there, which was such a treat. After my last concert being Taylor Swift (at the same venue), I wasn’t sure whether Ed Sheeran’s performance would captivate me, but he is just so damn talented!

It’s just him — no band, no backing tracks, just his guitar, a microphone, and a bunch of looping pedals. My only disappointment was that he didn’t play Tenerife Sea, which was Sean’s and my wedding song, but the rest of the setlist was really great. He has so many big hits!

Sadly, I got sick on my last few days in Atlanta, which put kind of a damper on the end of the trip, and I’m STILL dealing with the same freaking cold now, 10 days later. It hasn’t been debilitating, just making me thoroughly snotty, sneezy, and miserable… and of course at what feels like the worst possible time. I’ve just had a lot to catch up on from being out of town, in addition to all the craziness of it being a short week this week, then holiday stuff, etc. I also haven’t worked out since before I got sick, which is kind of depressing.

On the brighter side of things, at least we got back in time to get to experience the first snow of the season in the DMV area!

Well, it was bright news for like, a few hours that day, before everything turned to total crap weather-wise and it was just an onslaught of sleet and rain for the rest of the day. But still, at least we got a few hours of beautiful crisp, powdery white fluff, which is just the best. You can take the girl outta Ottawa, but I guess her love for snow’s gonna stay.

Like I mentioned, I did have two events over the weekend as soon as I got back, so between jumping on those, digging myself out of my email inbox, and trying to get Penny back on some semblance of a schedule (it’s not really working, lol), things have felt pretty frantic since coming back. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed but I can definitely feel the anxiety starting to rumble under the surface. Hopefully the Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that I have a couple of weeks before my next big work event will help me feel like I have a little room to breathe.

Despite all the busy-busy-ness, we did mange to squeeze in a family photo session this weekend with my brother & sister-in-law — this was literally the only time that we would have been able to do it, so I’m thankful that it ended up being a beautiful, if chilly, day! All of the snow had melted by then, so we got lots of beautiful fall colors as our backdrop.

 

 
 

And that just about catches us up to today! Hopefully I’ll be back with another post a bit sooner this time, but that’s unlikely to be before Thursday, so let me say Happy Thanksgiving in the meantime, and see you on the flipside!