Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Bedtime Struggle

Bedtime is the one time of day that I look forward to and dread all at the same time.

I truly enjoy bedtime with Audrey. She is just so sweet and so precious and I think she enjoys our routine just as much as we do. She asks for her "banket" and all of her bedtime friends - tiger, "brr" (elephant), and "dophin." She can barely wrap her arms around all of them but she insists they sit with us while I read her story. She then cuddles up on my chest as I rock and read a story. She likes to point out different animals in her books and make animal noises ("owl-ooh ooh," "wion - roooooaar").

I then turn out her light and she knows its time to wind down and sing her songs. She will lay back and wrap her arm around me and say "tinkle star." So we sing our two songs - Twinkle Twinkle and You Are My Sunshine - while she looks up at me and grins. Then she gives me a kiss and hug and I snuggle her as long as I can - sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes just a few seconds. When she gets squirmy I lay her down with her bedtime friends and cover her with her blanket while she looks up at me and giggles. I put my hands on her cheeks and say "I love you sweet baby girl." Sometimes she says I love you back and sometimes she doesn't. Then I turn on her classical music, close the door, and she goes right to sleep, typically within two  minutes.
That's the easy part of bedtime. The part that I look forward to each day and will always cherish.

Raley's bedtime, on the other hand, is not so enjoyable. I've talked before of our troubles with getting her to stay in bed at night, so today I'll elaborate.

She does everything in her power to delay going to sleep. She's deliberately slow getting her jammies on. She takes forever to pick out a story. She's thirsty (or, as she says, "drinky"). She wants to put her baby to bed in her cradle (and feed her. and sing her a song. and rock her.)

We try to be patient as she's doing these things. We try not to rush in an attempt to have a pleasant end of the day with her as well.

If David and I are both home we will both climb in bed with her as we read a story. Then we give kisses and hugs, turn the light out and say good night. But there's always something else that she wants.

Some nights she will quietly sneak out of bed and just sit on the stairs until we realize she's out of bed and go lay her back down. Sometimes she will do this over and over for hours. If we're already in bed she'll either sit quietly in the playroom outside our door or come into our room. There are some nights we really think she's asleep and then 30 minutes later she'll come sneaking into our room.

Other nights she just sits in her bed and cries/yells. Sometimes she yells in a mad/demanding tone things that she wants. Sometimes she cries "I want you, Mommy/Daddy."

Last night she was sitting in bed yelling in a mad tone "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" until David finally went up to see what she wanted and she told him "I want Mommy." Sometimes it's comical, but it's still very frustrating.

We have tried literally everything.
- We've tried bargaining/bribery - "If you stay in bed you'll get a treat in the morning."
- We've even tried bargaining to the extent of making a chart and telling her that if she stayed in bed at night for a week straight then she could go to the store and pick out a treat. This eventually worked but it hasn't worked since.
- We've tried spanking
- We've tried reasoning with her
- We've tried good cop-bad cop
- We've tried ignoring it
- We've tried taking away toys
- We've tried cutting out naps
- We've tried giving in to the things that she asks for thinking that, for example, if we give her a drink of water she'll then go to sleep (wrong).
- When she's crying for one of us we've tried holding her until she calms down, talking to her, telling her we love her and why it's important to go to sleep. We'll tell her the fun things she's going to do when she wakes up and why we can't lay down with her. But when it's time to lay her back down, she typically will start the crying all over again.
- We've also tried laying down with her at times. It breaks my heart to listen to her cry "I want my Mommy." Sometimes I think what if she really does need me? But I get the same results. I lay down with her for a while, just like she asks. Sometimes I even lay with her until she falls asleep. But when I get up to leave, she wakes up and starts crying all over again.

The other problem we have with laying with her (or letting her lay with us in our bed) is that she comes to expect it every night, and it's just not something we can do each night. We need that time after they go to sleep to get things done around the house. Sometimes we need that time to just be together. There are days when David is getting home as they are going to bed and we literally haven't seen each other all day.

I know that a majority of the things that she does are stalling tactics. We have told her that it's always ok to get up to go potty because we are trying to get her used to that so we can get her out of pull ups when she sleeps. So since she knows that it's ok to get up to potty, some nights she will get up and pee on the potty four separate times. Sometimes she tells us she's had a bad dream (when she hasn't been to sleep yet) and will come up with these creative, elaborate stories. Sometimes she says she's "scared" and when we ask her what she's scared of she looks around and says "ummmm......that" and points at something random in her room.
This past Sunday at naptime, we found her like this on the floor, bottom half under the bed, with Audrey's paci in her mouth
We are literally, at a loss of ideas. We even got one of those Ok to Wake clocks that turns green when it's ok to get out of bed. It typically works in the mornings, but it doesn't keep her in bed when it's time to go to sleep.

Actually, I thought it was going to work great. We had a couple of weeks after we got it that she actually did much better. If she did get out of bed at night it was only once or twice, then she stayed in bed and fell asleep. There were some nights she didn't get up at all. There was actually one morning that she woke up before the light turned green so she grabbed a book and sat in bed until it turned green and then she got up. I thought we had made a turn around.

But then it all went back downhill again. Several nights this week she has still been awake nearly two hours after we've layed her down. One night it was almost midnight before she fell asleep. I keep telling myself it's a phase. I keep telling myself to hang in there, she'll get past it. There have been several nights that I have been in tears as well because I don't know if we're handling it the right way. But it seems that no way is the right way because nothing works. I hate ending our days this way. I hate ending a great day with crying and spanking. I just want her to go to sleep a happy girl.
Does anyone have any suggestions? Because it's rough around here. Is my child the only one who acts this way at bedtime?

Friday, August 4, 2017

What We're Eatin'

I've been getting tired of making the same ol' meals so I searched Pinterest and founds all kinds of new recipes. Some were great, some were so-so. Here's a few new recipes we've tried lately and what we thought about them!

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Casserole
If you know me, you know that I love some Mexican food. I'm always up for new recipes with a Mexican flare. 
What we thought: It was good, but needed a little more spice. I used mild enchilada sauce because that's all they had at the store, but next time I would use medium.
Would I make it again? Yes, with medium enchilada sauce. And maybe add some crushed up chips on top to add some crunch and saltiness?
Changes to the recipe? I left the refried beans out of this recipe (because I can't stand beans) and I didn't use an entire can of corn. The recipe called for 2 cups of dry rice but this ended up being way too much. I think 1-1.5 would have been plenty.

Taco Alfredo
Like I said, I love Mexican! It looked so pretty when it was done, I can't believe I forgot to take a picture!
Recipe: Taco Alfredo
What we thought: Delicious!! The alfredo sauce was made with shredded mexican cheese instead of parmasan, which gave it a different and more bold flavor than your typical alfredo.
Would I make it again? Absolutely
Changes to the recipe: None

BBQ Chicken Tostadas
I had never made tostadas before and these looked delicious so I thought I would give them a try. I loved the taste and the crunch of the corn tortillas. I had a bunch of chicken so I decided to use this recipe for slow cooker shredded chicken and use it over several meals. 
What we thought: David liked them, but I'm weird about shredded chicken so I didn't really care for the taste of it. I think next time I would use a rotisserie chicken from the store.
Would I make it again? Yes, but with different chicken.
Changes to the recipe: I used Mozzarella cheese and no green onions.

Buffalo Chicken Tostadas
The next night I used the same chicken and made buffalo chicken tostadas, thinking the buffalo would overpower the weird taste of the shredded chicken (it did not). I tossed the chicken with Frank's Red Hot Sauce, topped it with Mozzarella cheese and threw it in the oven. I then mixed together some ranch dressing and hot sauce and drizzled it on top. No recipe for this one. I would make this again, with different chicken. (Normal people would probably like this chicken, I'm just really weird about the taste of shredded chicken.)

French Onion Chicken and Rice Bake
I was unsure how everyone would react to this one, but let me tell you, it was a HIT! I think David was unsure about it too when I told him one of the main ingredients was French Onion dip, but he loved it and so did my girls. 
What we thought: This is different from anything I've ever made, but it was surprisingly delicious. Raley actually was going back for seconds and thirds. The flavors mixed in with the rice, combined with the crunch of the fried french onions made this a huge hit.
Would I make it again? Without a doubt.
Changes to the recipe: None
I forgot to take a picture until it was half gone
Creamy, Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
I like all of those words. I thought this one would be amazing. 
What we thought: It was ok, but not amazing. One of our go-to meals is this Rotel chicken spaghetti recipe. This was similar to that, but I definitely prefer the flavor of the Rotel and Velveeta as opposed to the salsa and Mexican cheese in this recipe. Also I'm not a huge fan of sour cream, so if I made it again I would probably not put quite so much.
Would I make it again? Maybe, with less sour cream, if we were just wanting something different but this one isn't at the top of my list.
Changes to the recipe: None

Orange Chicken
I think yall can tell by now we eat alot of chicken. This one is a bit different. I don't cook Asian very often, but I thought this one looked good (and easy). 
What we thought: It actually turned out pretty good. When I tasted the sauce as it was cooking it tasted super sweet, so I was worried that it wouldn't taste that good. I ended up tossing in a little bit of extra soy sauce, which did help a little bit. The chicken and the rice toned down the sweetness of the sauce some, however I still thought it tasted a bit too sweet. Next time, I think I would use less orange marmalade (maybe 3/4 cup). 
Would I make it again? Yes, with the changes listed above
Changes to the recipe: I added a little bit of extra soy sauce (maybe 1-2 teaspoons?). I made Basmati rice to go with it, which is new to me, but I really like it! I made 1 cup of dry rice, which yields 2 cups cooked.

If you're looking for some new recipes, give a few of these a try! I'm anxious to try the tostadas again, using different chicken and this buffalo chicken slider recipe. I've also been wanting to try this firecracker chicken, but I'm afraid it will be too spicy for David and the girls. I'm the only one in the house who likes the spice turned way up.

Let me know if you have any recipes you think I would enjoy! Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Coffee Talk Confessions -July 2017

Grab your afternoon cup of coffee and let's chat for a minute! 
I've always loved the "Hey, It's OK" feature in Glamour Magazine. I remember reading it way back in high school and thinking oh, other people do that too?! That's where the inspiration for these posts come from - some people may think I'm crazy. Others may feel a little better because, guess what? You're not alone! 

So...These are my confessions:

//It's difficult enough to find time to wash your hair when you're a mom of toddlers, but when you really hate doing it, it makes it even harder. Washing my hair is literally one of my least favorite things to do. But it's not the washing that I hate the  most - it's all the time that goes into drying and straightening. (I cannot get away with letting it air dry and running out the door.) I end up dripping with sweat by the time it's all over. Also, I hate to take up precious nap time with this super annoying, time consuming task. I could be doing so many other things. Needless to say, my hair gets washed about twice a week. #heyitsok
*Side note: I don't feel that bad about it - all that heat ruins my hair anyway!

//Raley likes to quote movies and right now one of her favorites is Boss Baby. She has unfortunately picked up the line "you suck it" (in the movie it's referring to a pacifier.) So if you hear her saying this, she got it from the movie. We do not tell our children to "suck it." 😳

//I feel like the biggest nag when we are sitting down to eat a meal. We say the word eat, on average, 532,000 times a day. *Does anyone else's toddlers have an issue eating?

//I'm a Bachelor/Bachelorette junkie. I'm not really that excited by this season, but I still can't allow myself to miss an episode. And for some reason the ridiculous drama of Bachelor in Paradise just sucks me in.

//A couple of days ago, on our way out the door to church, I quickly grabbed Audrey's shoes out of the basket by the door and threw them in her bag. (I never put shoes on her before we leave because they will come off as soon as we're in the car and I'll end up wasting even more time trying to search for them when we get there.) I go to put them on her when we get there - they're both left feet and one is Raley's and is two sizes too big. #momfail

Got any confessions of your own? I'd love to hear them! Happy Friday and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stay-At-Home-Mom Update

I'm actually not really sure what to call myself. Am I really a stay at home mom? I typically work one day each week. So does that make me a part time working mom? I don't really know what label to use, but I am home a vast majority of the time, so for this post we'll say "stay at home mom." 

It's been two whole months since I stopped working full time and changed to "prn" status at the hospital. So how's everything been going since then? Let me tell ya!

Overall it's been great! After just one week into staying home, I instantly felt my energy level skyrocket. I wasn't as exhausted in the mornings if my kids woke up early. My house was cleaner. I didn't feel like I needed to pass out as soon as the kids went to bed.

We've enjoyed more morning outings that we weren't able to before because I was either working or too tired. We've gone to the park, met friends at the Botanical Garden, gone swimming. I also feel like we do more with friends and family on the weekends such as swimming, having cook outs, going to the zoo or to the fair. Before I would avoid scheduling things on the weekends, or even on my off days, because I'd be exhausted and would want to sit at home all day to "recharge."
We had a great trip to the Nashville Zoo with friends this weekend!
Goofy little toddlers! These guys are right at a month apart.
We got to spend time with Aunt Lindsey (David's sister) and Uncle Brian this past week! I wish we saw them more!
I also had the opportunity to help with Vacation Bible School at church. If I had to work, I probably would not have been able to do this. Also, we would not have been able to do swim lessons (at least not as many sessions) if I were still full time. I am so grateful that we were able to do them this year. While Raley is still not swimming on her own, she is much  more comfortable in the water than she was at the beginning of the summer. Audrey is a natural in the water, she just needs a little more practice flipping onto her back!
Finally getting more relaxed and comfortable floating
Something else I try and work into our time at home is "quiet play time." We will sit down either in the living room or at the kitchen table and do something quiet and educational/creative. I love to see them learn and I love to see their imaginations at work. We have a book called Lola the Lollypop Fairy, which is a sticker book where you dress up the fairies on each page. She will sit and play with that for an hour and she's so proud of her creation when she gets done! She's also become interested in writing her letters so I found some flash cards and a dry erase book (Target Dollar Spot section) that we work on sometimes. During this time Audrey likes to color, do puzzles, or point out different items or animals in books.
Don't get me wrong though - not every day is cupcakes and rainbows. There are days when they wake up fussy and cranky and just tend to push my buttons all day long. We've had a couple of those lately. Days when I feel like I'm wasting my breath because no one is listening. Days when I feel like all I do is nag. Days when I get so tired of Raley saying "but first let me do this" or "nooo but I want to do this" when I tell her to do something.

Yesterday was one of these days. One of those days when it's 3:30 in the afternoon and you're ready to crawl in bed and call it a night. It was one of those you hear about when people say "the days are long but the years are short." And that's exactly what I try to tell myself. I have to try not to get too worked up. Don't explode, just breath, don't yell, walk away.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'll take days like that over working any day. Today has been a much better day, thank goodness! They have listened well today. We swam at my parents' house after lunch for a little bit and Raley actually worked with me on things that she's been learning in swim lessons. Audrey is my little fish and kept throwing herself backward with her puddle jumper on in a back float position and laughing every time her ears would get in the water. And thank goodness for my sanity, they are both napping!

All-in-all, this "stay at home mom" thing is pretty awesome! This has been my dream since Raley was born, to get to stay home and spend time with my kids as they grow up. I am so very thankful for this opportunity and am trying to make the most of it and not take it for granted.

Thanks for everyone's support! If anyone has any suggestions of new fun things we can get out and do before summer is over, please let me know! We haven't tried Early Works yet, so that is on our list. Have a great rest of the week!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

These Are The Good Old Days

Recently we were rewatching The Office and in one of the last episodes Andy Bernard made the statement "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." I turned to David and said "You know, we're in the good old days."
There are so many difficult things about this toddler stage of life. 
- Potty training. 
- Bargaining with them to eat. 
- Putting them back in bed...and back in bed....and back in bed...
- Trying to instill a basic sense of right and wrong into a tiny human who doesn't even know their ABC's so that some day they can grow up to be a good, well-mannered full-grown human.

Yes, it's tough. No one ever said it was going to be easy. But the fact of the matter is: We are in the good old days. 
These are the times that we are going to wish we could have back once they're gone. I know this and I try to remember this when the days seem tough. There are some days when both of my girls are extra wound up or fussy or just won't listen. I try to remind myself in these moments that these are the good old days. I would take a day like that over a day at work any day of the week. 
The other night something upset Audrey as we were laying her down for bed. This was unusual for her. She typically goes right to sleep when we lay her down in her crib. But on this particular night something was bothering her.

I ended up holding her real close and rocking her as she clutched her "brr" (her elephant) and her blanket until she calmed down and fell asleep. I'm pretty sure it only took about 10 minutes for her to fall asleep but I rocked her for close to 30. I even thought "this could be the last time I rock her to sleep." I did not want to let this sweet girl go. As she relaxed more she let go of her things and wrapped her arms around me. There was no way I was giving up this moment so quickly. 

I know that they are growing so fast and especially now, seeing Raley's growing independence, I realize this more than ever. I frequently think "this could be the last time" and then I want to just clutch it tight and never let it go.
On the fourth of July we were watching fireworks in the parking lot at church. We were surrounded by friends and family. Raley was sitting in my lap as the fireworks were starting and a few of her friends were sitting in a chair next to us. I had so many fleeting thoughts during this short time she was sitting in my lap - "Should I tell her to go sit with her friends?" "No, I love watching her reaction." "I love that she is enjoying this with me." "This could be the last year that she would rather sit in Mommy's lap than sit with her friends so I'm going to hold on to her as long as I can."

It's like she was reading my mind because no sooner did that thought go through my brain did she hop out of my lap. I was bummed for a second but then she said "I just want to sit right here." She sat down on the ground beside my chair, then reached up to hold my hand. Then my heart swelled up all over again.

I know that these moments will continue to happen as they continue to grow. It's just part of life. Your kids grow up faster than you'd like. 

There will soon be a last time they choose Mommy over friends.

There will be a last time they ask for the princess beach towel because princesses are for babies.

There will be a last time I rock Audrey to sleep (I can't remember the last time I rocked Raley to sleep.)

There will be a last time they want to play with Bitty Baby. They'll soon ask for a big American Girl doll instead. But then a few years later they'll grow out of that too.

There will be a last time they kiss me goodbye when they go to school or get excited to see me when I pick them up.

There will be a last time I lay next to them in bed and fall asleep with them in my arms. (As much as I love this, it only happens occasionally because it makes Raley's bedtime problem worse.)

There will be a last time we read a bedtime story.

There will be a last time they try to mimic what we do. At some point we will no longer be "cool."

There will be a last time they reach up for my hand at the playground.

There will be a last time we have dance parties in the kitchen or they dance on their daddy's feet.

There will come a time when they no longer want to play "dress up" in princess costumes. They will want to dress up with big girl clothes and high heels and make up.

Knowing that all of this will happen sooner than I'd like makes me want to freeze time, right here and now, in this phase that we're in, and never let it start back. I want so bad for these days to last forever. No matter how hard and long they sometimes are. I'm sure every phase has its joys, but I know for a fact that once these days are gone, we will be wishing we could have them back. We will be saying "Ahh, those were the good old days." 

So for now, I'm trying to enjoy these days while they last and soak up every sweet memory I possibly can. My girls may not remember this time, but I know I will. 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Life Lately - July 2017

What have we been doing since we've come home from vacation? Well, the first week we were trying to catch up on sleep. This week we've been keeping it low-key but I've still been trying to throw in some fun little outings here and there.

David and I made a deal before we went to bed the Sunday we got home from San Diego - if he'd let me sleep in Monday,  I'd let him sleep in Tuesday. Luckily for him, the girls slept until 9:00 on Monday morning (they rarely sleep that late). He took them out to grab some donuts and ran to the store to get some milk and a few other things we needed. I got to sleep in until about 10:45 (which also rarely happens). We all got ready to head to my parents' house for lunch so we could see my sister Kayla Beth and her new HUSBAND (eek!) before they moved back to Tuscaloosa.

That afternoon we all went back to the house and took naps. I knew I needed to unpack and wash clothes and clean the house but all I could think about was sleep. We ate freezer pizza, played and watched movies until bedtime. 

We are still having issues with Raley staying in her bed when it's time to go to sleep. We didn't realize that she had gotten out of bed and come downstairs until we were heading up to bed. She ended up passing out like this in the floor. 
Tuesday was my morning to get up with the girls and it was my luck that they got up at 7:30. I could hardly keep my eyes open all morning. I haven't felt that tired since I was still working full time and I wonder now how I lived like that all the time. David slept in until about 10:30 and the first thing he asked when he came downstairs was "do you want to go lay back down?" My answer was a very quick "YES!" 

I slept a couple more much needed hours and we laid low the rest of the day until it was time to head to church for the Fourth of July picnic and fireworks.

The girls ran around with their friends in the parking lot and we got to chat with ours. The only time Audrey sat still all night was during the fireworks.
Raley's dress is from Kohl's. When I grabbed it out of her closet she said "Yes! I've been waiting to wear that one!" She loves this dress.
I worked the next two days so Friday we had another "play at home day." Sometimes I like to let Raley stay up for a little bit after Audrey goes down for her nap to have a little big girl play time. Sometimes we play with her cupcake game, sometimes we do puzzles and sometimes we play Candyland, which is what we did that afternoon. I like getting to spend this time with her doing things she likes to do.

Our friend, Derek, from college was in town this past weekend. That evening we met Derek, our friends Casey and Britni, and their kids at Cheeburger Cheeburger in Huntsville. 
After dinner I took the girls to Bridge Street to ride the carousel (one of our favorite things to do!)
On Saturday we met everyone at the new Urban Cookhouse at Bridge Street for lunch (it was very good!) We then took Raley, Audrey and CJ to ride the carousel again and then grabbed a popsicle at at Steel City Pops. After enjoying our treats we took the kids home to nap and then met again later that evening at Mellow Mushroom (we eat out alot when Derek's in town. Ha!) Raley and CJ enjoyed sitting in the little bus at mellow mushroom and watching the cartoons on the tv.
After dinner we let them run around in the grassy field at Providence and let them get nice and worn out before bed. 

Sunday morning we went to church then to eat with Derek, Casey, Britni and the kids at BJ's restaurant to say bye before Derek headed back to Memphis.
She likes to climb on him
Sunday evening began our VBS at church. I was helping in one of the 5 year old classes this year with my friends Maegan and Ashley. The girls had a great time in their classes playing with their friends and learning.

This week my parents are at the beach and since my mom usually keeps the girls while I'm at work, I didn't have anyone to babysit. What a perfect excuse to take a week off! We've had a busy week but it's actually been wonderful to have so much time off to spend with the girls.

Since I knew we had a lot on the schedule this week, including VBS, swim lessons and a doctor's appointment, I tried to balance out our time spent at home and our time out. 

Monday morning we laid low at home, played and watched movies all morning until it was time to go to swim lessons at 2. I also tried to catch up on house work this week since I was still behind from when we were out of town. 

Raley has been very hesitant about swimming and going under the water. She doesn't like the idea of getting water in her eyes and she doesn't like to float on her back. Her teacher Collin has been working very hard with her and her friend Ann-Elise this summer and we're hoping that soon they will start to feel more comfortable and learn to swim on their own. We have definitely seen improvement but  we still have a long way to go. Now that my parents have a pool, it just makes me so nervous that she's going to fall in or go in without her puddle jumper, thinking she can swim, but can't. She's actually walked off the step a couple times without her puddle jumper and went under and couldn't get back above water. Luckily someone was right beside her each time to grab her up but it just about made my heart stop both times.

After swim lessons we went home and Audrey took a nap. I knew Raley wouldn't get a full nap in before VBS so I let her have "rest time" on the couch while watching a movie. If Raley is not able to get a nap, I like to have her lay down and "rest" for at least an hour. This allows her to slow down and recharge and usually helps with the fussiness later in the day. (It allows me to rest as well.)

I did not want to wake up this sweet sleepy face to get ready!
Tuesday we didn't have anything on the schedule until VBS at 6:00 so I decided to take them out and do something fun that morning. We went to Palmer Park and played for a little bit. Audrey kept saying "Hot! It's hot!" and blowing the air as if she were blowing her food that's too hot. It was hysterical and precious. 

There was really only one slide that was shaded and cool enough to slide down so we stayed on that jungle gym most of the time. 
I just love this picture below. When Raley was little she would hold her hand up for me to hold when she was stepping up or down at the park. Audrey now does the same thing. She reaches up and says "hand." It's just too sweet.
Audrey at 18 months
Raley at 21 months (this is also one of my favorite pictures)
We went to Lawlers for lunch, then home for naps. After naps we got up and got ready for VBS but I ended up having trouble with my car and we didn't end up making it Tuesday night. Raley was pretty bummed, but we spent the rest of the night playing upstairs in the playroom. I like to split our time playing upstairs and downstairs. There are different toys for them to play with so they get excited to play with something different. 

Wednesday morning we stayed home because, like on Monday, we were supposed to have swim lessons at 2. The lessons ended up being cancelled so we just had a fun stay at home and play day. That evening was the last night of VBS. We had a sweet group of kids all week and my girls had a great time. 
Raley and her friend Brynn

Thursday we met my friend Maegan and her girls Ann-Elise and Ryleigh at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. This has been one of our favorite spots this year. Right now they have dinosaurs that are very lifelike. They move and make noises. The girls loved them. 

We had packed a picnic so we took a minute to find some shade, sit down and have some lunch. After lunch we let the girls play in the little splash pond. This was the best thing! They ran all over that little pond and cooled off.  Maegan and I sat at the edge of the pond and watched them run around and splash all over the place. We ended up soaked as well, but didn't mind because it felt great to cool off. I love that our girls are so close in age. It's so much fun to watch them grow up together and we feel blessed to have found such great friends through the church.
We wore these girls out because they both took great naps that day! After they woke up we ate dinner, took baths, and watched Lady and the Tramp until bedtime. (I'd say we had a great day!)

Today Audrey had a doctor's appointment and had to get shots. She was pitiful! Afterwards we ran to the store to grab some groceries and then back home for lunch. We had swim lessons at 2. Raley did better today. She actually said she wanted "Mr. Collin to take me under the water." She went all the way under the water once and she put her face in several times. Hopefully with some more work, she'll start to get it soon.

Raley got to have "rest time" again today while Audrey napped (she's actually laying beside me watching a Tinker Bell movie as I'm writing this). Tonight David's parents are coming over to watch the girls so we can have a date night. 

This weekend we don't have anything on the schedule for once, so I think we are going to try and swim tomorrow morning and relax as much as we can. I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Southern Cal Ballpark Tour Part 2: San Diego

For those just tuning in, this year for our annual ballpark tour we decided to travel to Southern California and visit Los Angeles and San Diego. We spent the week touring these beautiful cities, soaking up the beautiful California weather and following the Dodgers around SoCal. Hop over to this post for details from our LA trip and why we were excited to get to go to so many Dodgers games.

Day 1
We had to get up pretty early to get ready to drop off our rental car and catch our train from Burbank to San Diego. We rode the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner which traveled along the coast for the last part of the trip. The worst part was all the stops at the beginning part of the trip but we really enjoyed the ride. This was our first time riding a train like this and we were very pleased. There was plenty of leg space, outlets to charge our phones, a complimentary refreshments bar, plus it was relatively quiet. This was a double decker train so we sat on the top, which was pretty cool too. It was nice to just sit back, read a book and enjoy the view.
Our view from the train
We arrived at the Santa Fe Train Station a little before 1:00pm. We walked about a mile to our hotel to see if we could check in early and, luckily, they had a room available. We stayed at the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, which was a beautiful hotel and perfect location. We briefly dropped off our luggage, freshened up and headed back out. Our first mission after dropping off our luggage: find some fish tacos.

We asked the people at the front counter at the hotel if they had any recommendations and they suggested El Pulpo, which was just a few blocks down from our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. This was our first time trying fish tacos so we decided to try them grilled and fried - both were great, but I preferred fried!

*Ladies, I will tell you, I've found my new favorite travel dress! It's a lightweight t-shirt dress from Target and it is SO comfy! I wore this black one on the train to San Diego and I also have one in olive green, which I wore on the plain to LA. If they had it in 10 more colors I'd buy them all!
*Also, I wore these Sanuk yoga slings every single day on vacation and they were amazing to my feet. Any other shoes I've ever worn on vacation have hurt my feet (even my comfy Yellowbox flip flops) so I wanted to find something this time that I could wear all week and not have a problem with. These were great! Definitely suggest getting a pair of these if you plan on traveling or being on your feet alot.
After lunch we decided to tour the USS Midway Museum. This was something that was high on our to-do list and since we had about two hours before it closed we decided to go ahead and visit. This place is absolutely amazing! It's an aircraft carrier that served in several wars and has housed hundreds of thousands of sailors. 
The place was huge
The nurse in me enjoyed seeing the infirmary and the OR.
ICU
Operating Room
After seeing all we could see on board we had a little time to kill before the 6:00 ferry to Coronado Island. We walked over to see the big statue of the famous picture of the sailor kissing the nurse. David talked me into taking a picture mimicking the statue.
We then caught the ferry headed to Coronado. I always enjoy riding ferries whenever possible. It was a bit chilly, though.
What a beautiful view!
We had planned on just walking around a little bit and then finding something to eat. Right away I spotted a little chocolate shop with these decadent caramel apples so we had to grab one of those to enjoy after dinner. We got the butterfinger caramel apple. It was the perfect after dinner treat!
We were wanting a good seafood restaurant and landed on Peohe's. This restaurant was stunning and the food was delicious! Our table was on the screened in patio and looked right over the water. Such a great atmosphere! We got the crab stuffed, parmesan crusted tilapia with yukon gold mashed potatoes. We've never had anything like it before and it was sooo good! 
Inside the restaurant

On our ferry ride back to the harbor we were lucky enough to witness a fireworks show from the USS Midway. The ferry driver knew they would be shooting them off and drove slowly so everyone on board could enjoy them. I'd say we had a great first day in SD!

Day 2
We tried to call or facetime with the girls at least once a day. We loved seeing their faces and hearing their sweet voices!
One place I had read about that I knew we just HAD to try was Wow Wow Waffles. I love Belgian waffles so this place was a must. It's tucked in behind a laundromat - you'd miss it if you didn't know what you were looking for. The way it was laid out was just so cute. 
They had this little tent with tables made out of palettes
I got the Chocolate Lover's waffle which was infused with Belgian chocolate and topped with berries and whipped cream (you're probably noticing a pattern - I LOVE "breakfast strawberries")
We were within walking distance of Balboa Park so we decided to try to walk over to the zoo (the distance wasn't long, but we did have to walk up and down a few hills). We thought about going to the zoo but we had other things we wanted to do before heading to the baseball game that night, so we decided to walk around and explore Balboa Park (plus it was much  more pricey than I expected). 

I am so glad that we decided against the zoo. The El Prado area of Balboa Park has an array of Spanish style architecture that is absolutely stunning. We walked through the Spanish Village Art Center, then up and down El Prado, through the botanical building, and just admired all the other architecture around us.
Spanish Village Art Center. I loved the buildings and the walkways
The Museum of Man - this building was stunning! If we had more time we would have toured it. You can pay a little extra to go up in that tower.
The Botanical Building
Lily Pond
I grabbed a Hibiscus tea from a little stand in El Prado (very good and different) before we headed to catch the bus toward Old Town. 

Old Town may have been my favorite part of the entire trip and we didn't even get to spend much time there. Old Town was the first settlement in California and has an authentic Mexican atmosphere. We had heard that this was the best place for authentic Mexican food and this was absolutely the truth! I ordered the chile relleno with rice and David got a chicken burrito. This is without a doubt the best Mexican food I have ever had (and I've had ALOT!) We ate at Casa de Reyes which was in this beautiful courtyard area in the Fiesta de Reyes Plaza. There is a stage next to the restaurant where they often have free live entertainment including mariachi bands and folklorico dancers. We didn't get to see any of this because we were there in the middle of the day but there was a roaming mariachi band performing table side at the restaurant.
Chile Relleno - every time I think about it my mouth waters and I want another one right away!
We had to have an authentic Mexican margarita
After we ate we walked around for a little bit, but not long enough. I wish we had a few more hours to spend there. As we were walking back to the transit center to catch the trolley back to the hotel I told David how much I missed it already and how I wished I had another stomach so I could eat another meal. The food, the music, the roaming mariachi band - everything here was perfect!

We got to the game early that evening. We like to go a little early to watch batting practice and have time to roam around the stadium before the game starts. Petco Park was awesome - one of our favorites we've been to. There is an area in the outfield where kids can run the bases on a little field, or just run around in a little grassy area. The different levels, bridges, and lighting was beautiful. 
View from our seats
On the left side of the photo below you can see a brick building called the Western Metal Supply Co. It was built in 1909 and Petco Park was built around it. It still has the original look on the outside, but on the inside it now houses suites, a bar and a Padres team store. Even though this is a newer park, it still has history, which I love!
[In case you missed the last post] It is our tradition to wear the home team's fan gear the first time we visit a stadium. We had to continue tradition, even though we were rooting for the Dodgers!
This was a great game! Austin Barnes hit a grand slam in the 1st inning and then a 3-run HR in the 6th for 7 RBIs. We also witnessed a bench clearing "argument" between the teams' managers which got them both ejected. Grant ended up pitching 1.2 innings and did really well! Dodgers won 10-4.
Grant pitching
Day 3
On our last day in this beautiful city we went to James Coffee near Little Italy for breakfast. We expected a normal little coffee shop but the actual coffee area is in the middle of a building called The "Space" that has a warehouse-like feel full of little shops, a florist and even a barber shop. I got a Mexican Mocha, which had a little kick to it and a croissant. We didn't want a big breakfast because we knew we would be having a heavy lunch. 
I love coffee art
After breakfast we Ubered to Ocean Beach. This was our first time ever using Uber and the app makes it so easy! It was a cloudy morning and somewhere between 70-75 degrees so it was a bit chilly. I had originally wanted to use this time to lay on the beach all day long, and maybe visit several different beaches, but the weather was cooler than we thought so we ended up not spending as much time on the beach as planned. We walked up and down Ocean Beach for a bit and even though there was a cloud cover I still wanted to lay on the beach, relax and get some sun. It was nice to just lay back and read a book in the sand for a bit.
The reason we decided on Ocean Beach out of all the beaches in San Diego is because we wanted to go to Hodad's for lunch. There ended up being a line down the block to get a table. David offered to wait in line while I walked across the street to Jungle Java, a little coffee/tea shop and garden. I grabbed a cup of iced tea, sat back in an Adirondack chair and read my book (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn) while David waited in line. It was probably about a 40 minute wait total. Every place we've gone to has had such an open and unique atmosphere. I love it!

The burger and onion rings at Hodad's definitely lived up to the hype. I got a bacon cheeseburger, which was so good! Although, if I'm comparing the burger here to the one I got at Dog Haus in LA, I would definitely say that I liked Dog Haus better.
This is a single bacon cheeseburger. This thing was huge!
The place was covered in license plates from all over the country
We got an Uber back to the hotel, changed clothes and then headed back out. We had decided the night before when we were at the ballgame that we were going to grab tickets to Saturday night's game as well. We hadn't planned on going to a fourth game, but we both just enjoy it so much that we decided to snag some cheap tickets. I told David that if we were going to go to another game then we would have to find me a sweatshirt. It got cold at night, especially in that top section. We walked to a little shopping mall set right in the middle of downtown. I found a Nike sweatshirt at Macy's and we were on our way. 

We made our way down to Seaport Village and spent some time walking around there before the game. We sat on the wall right next to the water for a little bit, just trying to soak up our last little bit of time with this beautiful view.
We had planned on eating seafood at Seaport Village but I was really craving some more Mexican. So we walked back to the Gaslamp Quarter and ate at Las Hadas Bar and Grill. This was different than Old Town but still good. I went boring this time - I got cheese enchiladas and rice. But they were very different than what we get back home because they were made with corn tortillas instead of flour and were very good! The rice was a cilantro rice. I typically don't like cilantro because to me it has a metallic taste but it wasn't overdone in this rice and was pretty good. 
We made our way to Petco Park one last time and arrived right at game time. It was another great game - Dodgers hit back to back homeruns in the 5th then in the 7th Chris Taylor hit a grand slam. We even witnessed a fight in our section a few rows in front of us. We have no idea what it was about but one guy fell down a few rows of bleachers. It was a little scary. Dodgers ended up winning 10-0.

-Side note - what are the odds? - we went to four Dodgers games on this trip and didn't get to see Clayton Kershaw pitch once! He was scheduled to pitch the Friday night game in SD but they moved him to Thursday against the Angels. He is just incredible so we were really hoping to see him start, but it just wasn't in the stars this time. Maybe we'll catch him in Atlanta sometime.
View from our seats
After the game was a laser and fireworks show on the field, which was great! I've never seen a fireworks show quite like this one.
After the game we caught up with Grant, his wife Cori, and his parents Clay and Deana. Grant knew that David and I have been big Chase Utley fans since he was a Philly (we even had a cat named Utley) and was nice enough to ask him to sign a ball for us. (Grant signed a ball for us as well ;-) 
We went to dinner with them after the game. We just had dessert and coffee since we had already eaten and weren't all that hungry - they're used to eating super late. It was so great to get time to sit down and catch up. It had been years since I had seen Grant and we had never met his wife, so we were incredibly thankful they asked us to come along and spend some time with them.

We got back to the hotel after midnight, finished packing and then crashed. We had to be up before 5:00 am to get ready to catch our flight.

Travel Day - SD -> HSV
We woke up about 4:45 to get ready, pack our stuff and head to catch the trolley toward the airport. We ended up taking the trolley to the Santa Fe Train Station and a shuttle bus to the airport, which dropped us off at the terminal. Figuring out the transit system was super easy with the latest version of Google maps on the iPhone. 

I was feeling a little nauseated that morning, probably just from going to bed so late and waking up early. When we got through security at the airport I grabbed a muffin and some iced tea (for some reason I was just not feeling coffee). This helped settle my stomach a little bit.
I just love this view from the sky
We flew to Atlanta where we had a three hour layover. Those layovers always seem to go by much  more quickly than you think they will. At this point we were just so excited to see our girls! 

Our flight to Huntsville was only about 30 minutes long so we actually touched down a little earlier than scheduled. We quickly grabbed our luggage and couldn't wait to wrap our arms around those sweet babies. David's parents brought them in to the airport with sweet sign that said "Welcome Home Mom and Dad." 
We love the Aurora brand stuffed animals - we have quite a few that we have gotten them at various zoos - so when we saw these, we decided to get them as a souvenir. We got Raley a panda bear and Audrey a dolphin (there is a dolphin in one of Audrey's books that she likes - she calls it a "dossin")
Audrey was walking all over the airport holding her purse and her dolphin
We had such an amazing trip but we are happy to be back home with our babies. It has taken about a week to recover and catch up on sleep but I think we are finally there. I worked two days last week and I'm off this week, so we are planning on having some low-key fun while I'm off. 

If you'd like to catch up:
Part 1 of our Southern California ballpark tour (Los Angeles)
Ballpark Tour Trip #1: Kansas City and St. Louis
Ballpark Tour Trip #2: NYC and Boston