Tuesday, December 31, 2013

12, 13, and 14 to come

Happy belated holidays once again. I have a few hours remaining to post some final thoughts for 2013. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy 2014!

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Take a step back to 2012. One of our hardest years ever. It was the year of Amelia's eyes. Strabismus eye surgery number one. Then heartbreak. A repeat eye muscle surgery. Hope. Then defeat once again. And a final eye surgery to round out the year. I know other things happened that year, but my mind is filled with the ups and down of our eye journey.

2013 began a bit rocky, as we put Amelia under anesthesia yet again for an MRI. It came back clear, and we began the process of figuring out glasses. Over time, we saw more and more success. It was not going to be another "year of the eyes"! Finally, we were able to step away from that roller coaster ride. So instead, we went through the dips and curves of buying a new home and selling ours! We moved into a new school district, about 4 miles from our other home. We worked ourselves nearly crazy with all the cleaning, showing, packing, and moving. And during this? I discovered I was going to have our second child! Big news and a happier year. (Although moving during first trimester? Not recommended! Whew, that was a challenge.)

Amelia also began kindergarten this year! She has truly matured into a "big kid", becoming more outgoing and excelling at school. She is reading books! Teaching me about science! Making us proud day after day. AND, her eyes have stabilized very well. Glasses fix her now minor crossing, and we could not be more pleased. 2013 was definitely the year of change. Good change all around.

Onward, friends! Onward to 2014. I enter it as a barely balancing mom of one, and in a few short weeks will take a step down a path as mom of two. Not only as a girl mom, but as a boy mom too. I am afraid of the struggle, reluctant for the change, but optimistic. It is going to show me a whole new world. And I get to learn just how big a heart can grow with another love in our home.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

She won't see Santa anymore...

Well, here are last year's Santa photos from our trip to the mall. I have to share these because my "too big" Kindergartner has absolutely no interest in visiting Santa. He was even conveniently at a school event last week with no line and no ridiculous expense to buy a photo, but she would have nothing to do with him.

I'm too big, Mama. 

I can send him a letter, Mama. 

You could probably even email it, Mama. 

So we did send a letter. She told him of her Kindergarten accomplishments and requested three items to appear under the tree on the 25th. She thanked him and expressed her love. She still wholeheartedly believes, in both Santa and our silly elf Sparkles, but she no longer needs the photo. The lap. The little candy cane. She is a busy little lady in a high-tech world who knows exactly how to get things done efficiently.

So, please enjoy our mall and Santa photos - 2012.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A hearty winter soup from childhood: Beef Tomato Noodle

I love soup in the winter! As soon as the temperatures drop, I begin pulling out my recipes and planning delicious and comforting soup dinners. One of my favorites is based on an old family recipe. It doesn't even have a real name, but I used to call it "orange soup" as a kid, since it is tomato based and has an orange color. I guess you would call it something like Beef Tomato Noodle Soup.

Now, my great aunt used to slow cook the post roast all day and simmer the soup for hours, but BalancingMama doesn't cook like that. As I've mentioned in several posts before (see Gouda, Bacon, Garlic Grilled Ham and Cheese and Cute Pin-worthy Cupcakes), I am a semi-homemade kind of mom. I have a need for speed in the kitchen!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make your tree special with captured travel memories

My husband and I share a love of travel. Our first trip together was Las Vegas. We have been across the U.S., into Canada, and even in Europe together, sometimes pre-kid and sometimes with Amelia in tow. Having a child never stopped us from enjoying our adventures and vacations together! There is something special about being away from home. Imagine... family togetherness in a hotel room and having no chores to do! Perks like this are worth the effort it takes to plan and pack for a trip.

Each year just after Thanksgiving, our Christmas decorations come out. Each year, we put up the Christmas tree and begin to carefully unwrap our collection of ornaments. Each year, we reminisce about where we have been and what we have seen, because we always brought home a Christmas ornament from our adventures.

Christmas ornaments are a fantastic way to capture memories! Because they are not out all year long, the ornaments provide that special "ooh, I remember" feeling each and every year.

Happy holidays to all! And may your 2014 be full of exciting places and experiences.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Medieval Times Atlanta: Rowdy, messy fun for the whole family

We finally got our chance to visit Medieval Times in metro Atlanta this weekend! Having never been to a "dinner and tournament" before, none of us had any idea what to expect. I was not sure if Amelia would like knights and lances, or if she would be scared, or if she would eat any of the food... I really had no idea. We drove across town with the hope that it would be a fun family night for all thee of us.

It was! Medieval Times was a lot of fun. Amelia threw herself into the role of cheering for our section's knight, the Green Knight. She was initially shy about booing, because she is just a sweet person. But as Mommy and Daddy got into it with some banging and booing ourselves, she loosened up and had a lot of fun with it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New "Saving Mr. Banks" featurettes now available! See it 12/20!

Saving Mr. Banks opens in theaters limited on December 13th and opens nationwide on December 20th!

Inspired by true events, “Saving Mr. Banks” is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pregnancy is just weird.

Thirty-two and a half weeks along now. I started out the model pregnant patient, marveling at how I did not need to call the OB's office for months, when I could remember calling about every little lump and bump and tweak the last time around. This time, I did not have ten weeks of excruciating headaches. I had only brief nausea, which quickly went away once I began taking the prescription prenatal vitamin at night. I was not worried, not stressed. I was just going to cruise through this pregnancy like an old pro.

Enter third trimester. I have now talked to multiple nurses and had two "work-in" appointments at the OB's office. I seem to chat with someone over there at least twice per week! First it was illness, then a chronic and very gunky cough, then mystery pains and more pains.

Now? I have shingles!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter fun at SNOW Mountain! @StoneMtnPark #Atlanta

Where can you find snow for weeks on end within the Atlanta metro area? Only at Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain Park!

This was our second year enjoying the fast snow tubing runs. Well, this mama had to just watch with baby due in only 7-8 weeks. I was sad to miss out on the fun:

But my other two kids (er, I mean my husband and daughter) had such a wonderful time! I did enjoy seeing their smiles, cheering them on, and snapping a couple photos:

Snow Mountain has a 400-foot family tube hill where 3-5 people can ride together, as well as an individual run and a snow field for giggling snow play and snowman creation. Visit the website for Snow Mountain information including details on each attraction, what to wear, and what to bring.
After I got my few photos, I wandered around Stone Mountain Christmas where there are many more things to see and do. The toy shop, Polar Express 4D theater, cookie decorating, shows, and the Snow Angel palace are just a few of the wonders of the season you can enjoy. We did not see the parade or lights this year, since we did a morning/afternoon visit. But we saw them last year and I highly recommend them if you have time!
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Note: I received complimentary admission to Stone Mountain Christmas and Snow Mountain as part of their Media Days promotion. However, all opinions posted here are 100% mine.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#WW: Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Little Mermaid

Last year, we stayed in the Lion King family suite thanks to an unexpected upgrade.This year, we were in the smaller Little Mermaid wing, but it was still a nice experience. Disney goes all out with the decor, as usual.

I requested a room with a lake view. It was nice to see the lights of Pop Century, but take note: this is the farthest from parking. I may request closer to parking the next time! Or have a bellman help us lug our stuff form the car.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party: how we packed it all into a magical 6 hours @disneyparks

What happens when you mix the joy and wonder of Walt Disney World with the beauty of Christmas?  

Last year, we enjoyed a quick day trip to the Magic Kingdom prior to our visit with Florida family. We purchased a day ticket, took advantage of resort guest Extra Magic Hours, and hit the park before the sun was fully up. We enjoyed 11 hours of strategic running back and forth to see and do everything. The park closed at 7:00 so the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party could begin.

For nearly an entire year, I wondered what we missed.

Last week, we were passing through Florida once again to visit family. We decided to skip the day tickets and purchase only the Very Merry Christmas Party ticket...
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