Monday, March 31, 2014

Behind the scenes @GeorgiaAquarium - a great adventure!

Spring break began with a fun family weekend, topped off on Sunday with a visit to the Georgia Aquarium. We always enjoy our time strolling through the lovely world of water creatures, but this time was extra special. We were able to do a Georgia Aquarium behind-the-scenes tour! We were fascinated to learn more about how the aquarium supports over 500 animal species in 10 million gallons of water.

Before our journey inside the aquarium, Amelia insisted on a photo shoot with the dolphins:

Friday, March 28, 2014

For that I thank you

I have an acquaintance, hopefully she'd say a friend, a fellow blogger in the Atlanta area. I sat by her at an event this past weekend. She met my baby boy and we talked about the upcoming birth of her third son, expected within the week.

She gave birth to that precious boy yesterday. Thursday, March 27, 2014. Baby Gage fought a valiant fight with some breathing difficulty and an infection. But he left our earthly world about eleven hours after he was born.

This is not about me, but I am hurting so much for her. For the baby's father. For the children who were anxious to meet their new sibling. I am barely functioning today because that family is all I can think about. I want to pour my heart out with the words currently pounding in my head. I suppose I'm seeking relief from the sadness, a relief I don't even come close to deserving. It isn't "my" crisis.

I cannot stop staring at my own newborn baby boy. Irrational as it is, I feel guilty. How can I post his photo to Facebook? How can I share his milestones? I know she would not want me to feel this way or hold back my proud moments, but I am afraid of causing her even a touch of additional pain. She does not deserve the pain she is suffering right now and all who know her wish they could help to take it all away. Humans are selfish, and we want this baby boy back. Despite God's will, we so want him back.

For all the amazing women out there who have suffered infant loss, my heart aches for you too. May you find peace and loving hearts to surround you, especially the days when you have more 'downs' than 'ups'.

Baby Gage touched so many hearts in his short time here. He made us all hold our children, young and old, a little tighter. He made me calm when my almost 6-year-old was a sassy and disrespectful nightmare. He made sure that I will never stop being thankful.

For that, baby Gage, I thank you. You are beautiful in every way.

Spring is lovely in #Atlanta! Two favorite outdoor family attractions

Spring break is almost here! It is funny, I was not thrilled with the seemingly gazillion snow days this winter, yet I am counting the moments until Spring Break. Even more time for the child to be out of school... why is it different this time?

It is different because the baby is 2 months old and sleeping much better. I am more rested and able to have fun with Amelia again. It is also different because it is SPRING! Cold, gray days stuck at home with snow and/or ice are not nearly as appealing. I am hoping for sunny and blue Georgia skies during the upcoming break.

If the imminent springtime loveliness makes you want to do a little happy dance, then I would recommend the Atlanta Botanical Garden.March and April are simply gorgeous because all the bulbs are in bloom. Children will enjoy romping through the Children's garden, and everyone will ooh and ahh in the orchid house. The botanical garden makes for a really fun and happy day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Planning a Despicable Me Minions GIRL birthday party

I have been talking a lot about spring and spring break, but we have yet another exciting event to look forward to here. Amelia's sixth birthday! This is a big birthday year; she is growing up and breezing through kindergarten, and she has a whole new set of friends. No more inviting Mommy and Daddy's friends... this year, Amelia gets to set her own guest list. I feel bad losing so many of the guests who have attended for five years, but it really does need to be her day.

Of course, she insists on inviting the whole class. Twenty-two kindergartners. Despite my best efforts to cut down the list, little Miss Popular is adamant. All of them. ALL are her friends.

She has also been insistent on the theme: Minions! Specifically, the "girl minion". Who I believe is actually a male minion named Stuart who once put on a dress and pigtails... but whatever. She/he is adorable. I searched high and low, however, and party supplies just do not feature this cute little minion. So we will be combining birthday celebration minions with whatever I can make to feature girl Stuart. Here's what I have so far!

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Atlanta for Spring FUN Break? #Win Stone Mountain adventure passes!

Atlanta area counties are anxiously awaiting spring break this week - breaks begin next week, with a few counties getting out one week later. When our break begins, Amelia, baby Andrew, and I will be doing the Hometown Tourist thing while Daddy works. Vacation weeks like this make me so glad to live in a family-friendly city with so many activities to offer.

With the weather warming up (highs in the 70s next week!), outdoor activities are on our agenda. One of the best all-day outdoor attractions in metro Atlanta is Stone Mountain. We enjoy Snow Mountain in the winter, and I am looking forward to sunny, warm strolls around the park in April. And with no school for a week, perhaps we can finally stay late enough for the Lasershow Spectacular!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hometown Tourist: A spring break #staycation with the kids

Many parts of the country are still covered in snow, and here in Atlanta we still are facing on-again-off-again temperatures as low as 40 degrees. Mornings are chilly! However, the all-day sunshine is just around the corner and spring break is almost here. It is time to plan how you will make your family memories.

Our spring break is not going to include a big vacation this time around. We will spend just a couple nights away on a mini road trip. Otherwise, we will be at home. Daddy will be working, so I am the activities coordinator for most of the week!

What do you do when you have extra time with the kids? And it's finally not a snow day!?

How to be a Hometown Tourist with children

Have you visited your local family attractions in a while? Pick a couple and be a tourist in your own hometown. Here are some tips for making your hometown the coolest vacation around:

Talk it up. Get the kids excited just like you might do for a vacation. Let them know about the fun days you have planned ahead. If every spring break day is mundane, that's no fun! Give them something they can happily anticipate. Even let them count the days on the calendar until the fun day begins.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Disposable diapers comparison - is brand name worth it?

Luvs disposable diapers has a great advertising campaign. The commercials comically divide new moms vs. experienced moms by showing the differences in anxiety level.

For example...

First-time mom: hand sanitizer galore!
Experienced mom: hands baby to greasy auto mechanic

A female voiceover says: "By their second kid, every mom is an expert, and more likely to choose Luvs than first-time moms."

Clearly, the commercial was also well placed because I saw it while hanging out at home with my second baby. And the message made a lot of sense. I am not nearly as worried this time around. It is okay if Andrew cries, a little dirt will not hurt him, and disposable diapers do not have to be the top of the line. However, I wanted to test them for myself.

I purchased small packs of various diaper brands in order to do a disposable diaper comparison:
Pampers Swaddlers
Huggies Snug & Dry
Up & Up (Target) store brand
Babies-R-Us store brand.

Currently, Andrew is in size 1. To choose the best disposable diaper, I evaluated price, size, capacity, feel, and special features.

If you choose disposable diapers for your family, this information is for you. Do you want to know how these disposable diapers stacked up?

Because my kids are cute.

All moms are totally biased, I know.... but my kids are cute!

I was recently thrown into an important work project despite maternity leave (but hey, I was complaining about boredom just the other day) and baby has kept me very busy. So posts have been lacking lately.

Until I catch my breath, enjoy some cuteness....

Baby won't wake up

Kindergartner sings 'Let It Go'

Everyone must have a cover of that song... right?!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#WW: Thinking of Throwback Thursday... #Arizona

Arizona family vacation, 2011. Amelia is so sweet and little in these photos!

For more on that vacation, see the post I wrote for a Tuesday Traveler feature: Family Fun in Arizona

Monday, March 10, 2014

Playing in the dirt - and getting clean again with @Dial

Is the weather getting warmer where you live? We just enjoyed a gorgeous weekend in Atlanta. Finally, we had a morning soccer game that was not freezing and windy. Plus we were able to really enjoy several hours of afternoon playtime in the yard. It felt amazing after a very strange winter!

When kids play outside, they get messy. My child seems to gravitate towards dirt. She is a girly girl sometimes, but she will dig in the dirt as well as any boy in the land. Soccer field dust, Bermuda grass, and dirt digging all create some messy little hands!

Luckily, I was recently sent two samples of Dial Deep Cleansing Hand Soap to review. My messy little lady helped me to test out this new line of family liquid hand soaps. If anyone in this house needs really DEEP cleansing after a day outdoors, it is that girl. My dirt lover.

Step one to reviewing new hand soap:  sniff it!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fitting into jeans post-baby

My maternity pants are too big! Baby boy is almost six weeks old and I am struggling to keep my pants up. Maternity jeans are saggy and the belly panel is becoming an annoyance. So the other day, I happily yanked open the closet door, pulled open some bags and boxes, and went on a search for my jeans. I found my "bling" jeans (super cute with a sparkly pattern on the booty), my everyday bootcut jeans, and my "chubby day" jeans with the larger waist and higher rise.

Optimistic and quite curious, I snatched out the bling jeans. That pair would not even pull up over my butt. So, my booty got larger? I had no idea. Is that something that gets smaller with more time, or are my bling jeans destined to shine for someone else's rear end?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When Mama gets time for herself - Boots Clay Mask #PowerOfPlants

It is a rarity these days. But once in a while, my to-do list can be put on hold and the baby chooses to take a really good nap. My daughter is at school, husband is at work, house is silent. When I do not have something nagging at me to be done in the house, I take a moment for me.

Listen to the silence. Breathe. Close my eyes.

The other day, I received yet another awesome Influenster Vox Box.  Influenster is a free community of influential people who test products and tell others about their experiences. I am on my third Vox Box in only a couple months! I've tested shoe insoles, candy, lip gloss, eye shadow, tea, face cream, and more.

This box included Boots Botanics Shine Away Ionic "The Power of Plants" clay mask by Boots Beauty.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Can I be happy as a SAHM?

I have been home on maternity leave with my kindergartner and newborn for one month. I usually work part-time, about 14 hours each week with 8 of those hours in the office. I do not have one of those amazing jobs with meaning; I don't save lives, birth babies, or invent amazing technological advancements. But my job is my escape from the monotony of home; it is my regular exercise for my brain. I get to brainstorm ideas and make smart decisions.

I hate moms who judge other moms - and I applaud all types. Stay-a-home (SAHM), work-from-home, full-time, part-time... whatever works for each individual mom is Awesome. Yep, with a capital A.

Sometimes, however, I wonder what is wrong with me. Why can't I find that joy and contentment in staying home? How do the SAHMs stay sane?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Springtime in #Atlanta: Favorite family activities

Springtime is trying to show its face in Atlanta! The daffodils and cherry trees are blooming and for the first time in a while, we have a very sunny weekend with temperatures near 70 degrees! This is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy what Atlanta has to offer.

Now that we are a family with a baby again, we have a few specific places we like to enjoy family fun time together.

Three favorite outdoor Atlanta activities for small children...

Parks and playgrounds
We are so lucky to have a city with tons of park spaces! We enjoy short, easy hikes in the woods, picnics, and burning off energy on one of many area playgrounds. Three of our favorite north suburban playgrounds? Swift Cantrell park in Kennesaw, East Roswell park in Roswell, and East Cobb park in Marietta.  Swift Cantrell boasts two huge play structures for two age groups, a dog run, walking trails, and the brand new skateboard park. East Roswell offers disc golf, playgrounds, and (when it's warmer) spraygrounds where kids can play and get wet for only $1. East Cobb park has two playground areas, walking trails near water, and really nice pavilions for party rentals. We had Amelia's third birthday there a few years ago!
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