Pirate-themed 4th birthday party

Ever since Halloween, Corban has had his heart set on a pirate birthday party.

pirateparty17

I thought this would be a good age to have his first “kid” birthday party (as opposed to past birthdays where we’ve either just had family or invited all of our friends). We kept it small (by our standards) and resisted the urge to invite everyone we know, instead letting Corban pick a handful of friends and their families.

The invite

Of course every party starts with an invitation, and I’m game for any excuse to mail one. I used this ship font to make it in Photoshop. (This site has a bunch of awesome, free pirate fonts.)

pirateparty000

I wanted to add an interactive element, so I cut bands from red construction paper and tied them around the invites with baker’s twine.

pirateparty002

Inspired by all my reporting on hand lettering (for this story) I attempted a little pirate lettering on the envelopes. Not easy!

pirateparty006

I also get giddy over picking out stamps, and was pleased with this vintage rose option in stock at our post office. I know, nobody notices stamps, but it made me happy.

The decorations

On to the party itself! I think this was the most fun I’ve had planning a party.

pirateparty00

To start, I designed a few posters to get printed as engineering prints (black and white) from Staples.com. Unfortunately there are no Staples stores near us, so although the prints are a steal, the shipping fee is not. Anyone know of a place near Milwaukee for affordable engineering prints?

pirateparty01

For the banner, I just cut 8.5-by-11-inch black paper into quarters and painted the white letters on with a paint brush. The framed skulls and anchor are also just white paint on black paper.

pirateparty04

I found a bunch of huge black frames in Corban’s closet. I bought them on Clearance from Michael’s YEARS ago and never had a use for them, so decided to put them to use for the party. I desaturated and upped the contrast on some Halloween photos of Corban and us dressed as Jake and his crew and printed them out.

Then, of course, there wasn’t really anywhere to hang them so they ended up as the backdrop for the drink station.

pirateparty05

pirateparty07

pirateparty06

I also framed some Jake quotes (possibly will be putting the designs in my etsy shop). However, as my mom observed, most of the kids couldn’t read and most of the adults probably didn’t recognize the quotes. Oh well!

pirateparty10

pirateparty09

pirateparty11

My mom put up crepe paper, which is still hanging because I love how festive it is.

pirateparty12

This was my favorite detail (printable from etsy).

pirateparty005

The food

We kept it really simple. Jimmy John’s sandwiches for lunch (our go-to for parties), chips, veggies, dip, grapes and pirate bananas. I forgot to put out the cheese I bought.

pirateparty16

I saw this pirate ship-from-a-loaf-pan idea on Pinterest and attempted to re-create it using my favorite chocolate cake recipe. The results weren’t quite Pinterest perfect, but still fun. I used this fudge frosting recipe.

pirateparty25

I also made vanilla cupcakes using this recipe (which I will definitely be saving) and this vanilla buttercream frosting. Flags are just toothpicks and red Scotch tape.

pirateparty02

pirateparty24

The games

We gave Corban his birthday gift the night before the party—another Jake toy to add to his collection of pirate ships—and I had all of his pirate toys out for the kids to play with as they arrived.

pirateparty14

I also offered each child a red bandana, spyglass, pirate sticker and Jake temporary tattoo.

Peter made a little “walk the plank” game that none of the kids really paid attention to.

We had name tags out with a framed sign to help everyone find their pirate names. Peter’s name was the best—Stinky Creeper Chumbucket. I designed my own version of this and changed a few names.

pirateparty26

The first official game was a treasure hunt. It needed to be appropriate for ages 19 months to 6 years old, so I drew pictures of spots around our house on index cards, with a red “X” on the back of each card. The kids (as a group) had to use the picture to figure out where the next clue was.

pirateparty27

pirateparty08

They got pretty into it (at least the older ones did).

pirateparty18

pirateparty19

pirateparty20

The treasure hunt ended in the basement, with little goodie bags and treasure map sticker activities for everyone.

pirateparty21

I had way too much fun picking out junk for the goodie bags. In each bag there was a bag of fruit snacks, pirate stamper, pirate notepad, gold doubloons and stickers.

pirateparty15

Next we played pin the eye patch on the pirate. The pirate face is a framed engineering print, and I punched the eye patches out of black paper using a 2-inch circle punch and painted the kids’ names on.

pirateparty004

pirateparty23

After the party, my heart was full. It means so much to have friends and family who love our kids. Corban and Mara had a blast, and I actually felt like I was able to relax and enjoy it (which can be hard when you’re hosting). It was a really sweet celebration of our boy and we all felt very loved.

pirateparty22

Advertisements

Summer to do list: 50 things to do in Milwaukee

Summer is perfect and yet so fleeting here in Wisconsin. So we try to stuff as much outdoor fun as possible into three months. I’m sure this will be even more intense once the kids are in school.

I’ve realized in the past year that it’s not only OK but good not to plan something for every day of the week. Our schedule fills up without a whole lot of effort, and on days when we have nothing planned I’m either relieved to have no pressure or appreciative of the opportunity for spontaneity.

On the flip side, it’s frustrating when activities we’ve been wanting to do slip off our radar because of lack of planning.

So this summer, I want to strike a balance between filling our days with friends and fun and taking a break to relax in our backyard. I want to be intentional about hitting up certain places and activities, and also leave room for impromptu whimsy. So I’m creating a list to help guide my planning in both areas, as well as a few other categories.

Here is my Milwaukee summer to do list.

summerlist07

Kidventures

Weekday (non-workday) adventures with the kids and friends.

1. Milwaukee County Zoo. We got a zoo pass a few weeks ago and have used it three times already. I love our zoo as much as the kids do, and many of our friends do too, so I foresee this as a default activity on nice days.

2. Imagination Station. This fully accessible playground in Oconomowoc looks rockin’.

3. Farmers markets. Corban and I had a lovely date at the Tosa market one Saturday morning last fall, making me realize farmers markets are excellent spots for one-on-one kid time. This season I’d like to hit up Tosa again (live music, and it’s near train tracks), plus New Berlin (near a playground), Waukesha (on a river) and West Allis (huge). Here’s a map of all the markets in southeastern Wisconsin.

IMG_7446

4. Urban Ecology Center. Playground, nature center with turtles and snakes, trails and public art. Sounds perfect (minus the snakes, but Corban will love that).

5. Fox Brook Park. This Waukesha County Park has a lovely little beach and playground.

summerlist03

6. Fly kites at the Lake Michigan shore.

7. Walk the Milwaukee Riverwalk and meet Peter for lunch at Bartolotta’s Downtown Kitchen.

8. Fox and Branch concert. This kid-centric music duo has a regular lineup of free concerts.

9. Wehr Nature Center. Hiked there for the first time a couple weeks ago and it is an oasis.

summerlist00

10. Splash pads/pools. There are a bunch of options (this map isn’t even up to date), but I’d like to try tot time at David F. Schulz Aquatic Center, Cool Waters Family Aquatic Center (they open at 10 a.m., earlier than many pools) and any splash pad in our vicinity. We just finished a much-needed session of swim lessons for Corban so I want to keep him in the water this summer.

Activities at home

Quiet mornings, rainy days and other fun at home.

11. Backyard camping. Complete with campfire and s’mores. The sleeping part could very well be disastrous, but in that case we’re only a few feet from our beds.

12. Make play dough. Easy enough, right?

13. Make soap clouds. Trippy.

14. Balloon ping pong.

15. Marble race track. Judging by how much they love the golf ball tracks at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, both kids would go crazy for this.

summerlist01

16. Treasure hunt. Need to figure out the details of this.

17. Make popsicles.

18. Kiddie pool/sprinkler. Obvi.

summerlist05

19. Yoga. Or at least play around with some kid-friendly poses.

20. Neighborhood bonfire.

21. Outdoor movie night. After the kids go to bed.

Weeknight fun

Forget bedtime. It’s hard to resist all these fun summer weeknight activities.

22. Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Club show. Every Thursday night. Waukesha has a water ski club, too.

23. Cheer on our church’s softball team, of which Peter is a member.

24. New Berlin Concerts at City Center. Haven’t made it to one of these free summer Wednesday night concerts yet.

25. NEWaukee Night Market. Music, art, food, etc. in the streets of downtown Milwaukee, four Wednesdays this summer.

26. River Rhythms. Free Wednesday night concerts at Pere Marquette Park. Somehow, I’ve never been to this. The lineup is excellent. (Side note, why is everything on Wednesday night?!)

Fam-ventures

Weekend outings to enjoy with the whole family.

27. Pewaukee Beach. Do some late afternoon beach bumming then grab dinner by the water.

28. John’s Drive-In. Just heard about this place, but a throwback spot with root beer floats sounds right up our alley!

29. Fishing at Greenfield Park.

30. Old World Wisconsin. We have never been to this step back in time. Might as well go while both kids are still under 4 (a.k.a. free).

31. Canoe the Milwaukee River. It’s worth it to join the Urban Ecology Center simply for the benefit of free canoe, kayak, bike (and more) rentals.

32. Green Meadows Petting Farm. A preschooler’s paradise.

33. Berry picking. We still have strawberries in the freezer from Barthel Fruit Farm last June. Best strawberries I’ve ever tasted. I wouldn’t mind going back this year, or heading up north a bit to pick blueberries.

summerlist06

34. Bastille Days. In the city of festivals, I love that this one is a true street festival, with free entertainment and a mini-Eiffel Tower. And beignets.

35. Brewers game. Would love to take the kids now that they’re old enough to get excited about it. Corban went to one (vs. Cardinals) game so far this year and loved it.

summerlist02

36. Wisconsin State Fair. I love everything about it.

37. Milwaukee Parks Traveling Beer Garden. Sip a pint of Sprecher while the kids play on the playground. Looks like it’s coming to Greenfield Park this year, yay!

Dates

Adult time, just the two of us or with friends.

38. SummerStage at Lapham Peak. The outdoor theater has several plays and concerts this summer. Looks like a good lineup to choose from.

39. Brenner Brewing Co. tour. I bought a Groupon for this, so we definitely need to check out this new-ish art-centric brewery.

40. Art Bus. Never done this, but have heard it’s a good time.

41. Biloba Brewing Co. Family-owned craft brewery in Brookfield.

42. Escape MKE. Another Groupon purchase. This is a timed mission where you’re locked in a room with a challenge to accomplish. Teamwork!

43. Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. We have tickets so need to go to a performance in June.

summerlist04

Me time

Because there are things I like to do that Peter doesn’t.

44. Summerfest. We’ll be out of town for more than half the festival this year, but there are bands I wouldn’t mind seeing every night that we will be in town (not that that’s feasible…). Let me know if you’re game for some music!

45. Massage. I now have two gift certificates for massages, and I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to carve out time for myself to use them. So it’s on the list.

46. Bike the New Berlin Trail. It’s been a long time since I’ve biked, but I’m itching to get out there once again.

Road trips

Our kids are not at great ages to travel, but we’re doing it anyway.

47. Door County. Booked! Peter and I have our first solo getaway planned since we became parents. Can. Not. Wait. We are staying at an adults-only B&B/lodge in Ephraim, Wis.

48. Camping. Ideally, this will happen twice: mid-summer via a canoe trip on the Lower Wisconsin River (a.k.a. paradise. It is beautiful.) and early fall with a group from church.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 1.33.09 AM

49. Branson, Mo. Family reunion time. Waterpark. Theme park. Hiking. Cousins karaoke night. Etc.

50. Colorado. A house rental impulse buy with friends at a live auction, but I don’t think we’ll regret it.

—–

Would you look at that, an even 50!

I know that’s a lot, and I don’t expect to do it all. I’d just like to consult this list as we plan out our summer and as we find ourselves with free days. Nothing wrong with plain old playing with toys at home or walking to the neighborhood parks, but Corban and Mara do a LOT of that, especially when I’m at work, so this is my counter to that.

Bonus: I didn’t put this on the list because we’re doing it today, but hiking and picnicking at Minooka Park is also a great summer activity!

More resources: 50 things to do in Lake Country this summer | 100 things to do in Wisconsin this summer | Things to do for free or under $5 with kids in Milwaukee | 50 family fun spring break ideas13 rooftop spots to check out

What’s on your summer to do list? What else should I add to mine?

A sweet Halloween

Goodness. The longer I go without blogging, the higher the hurdle seems to jump back into it. I’ve been procrastinating on sharing updates on my dear little ones, Mara’s first birthday and other thoughts… but I’ll keep this at least relatively timely and share some Halloween pictures first.

halloween14-01

I feel like there is so much pressure in these young years for the Halloween costumes to be timeless, adorable, matching and fitting for each child’s personality. Oh and homemade, of course. That’s insane, I know, but those kinds of thoughts contributed to my procrastination in actually deciding on Corban’s costume.

halloween14-03

When it came down to the wire, though, we went with Corban’s current favorite character: Peter Rabbit. And after all my stewing, it actually did unintentionally live up to all my ridiculous standards! He was so adorably excited to “be” Peter Rabbit (in a very real sense, to him) and that’s how I knew we couldn’t go wrong with this costume. It was really simple to make, too.

halloween14-02

Mara had two options I was excited about — both costumes we already owned. A lobster (a la Corban’s first Halloween) and a bumble bee. The bee won in the end.

halloween14-04

Starting last year, fall will forever be a special time of year for me. This fall I was reminded of all the wonderful memories we made last year with newborn Mara and sweet toddler Corban, while I was off work and the weather was gorgeous. This fall seemed to fly by, but I couldn’t help but reminisce about that blissful season last year, and it makes me want to savor this time of year even more.

halloween14-06

halloween14-07

Halloween marks the turning point, for me, between warm, carefree evenings outside and the bustle of the holiday season. It’s the most social night of the year for our neighborhood–a kind of culmination of Wisconsin’s warm months. It’s a night where we relax outside with neighbors–some of whom we may rarely talk to the rest of the year, and we most certainly won’t see much of once the snow falls and the temps drop.

halloween14-08

And this year we really got good bang for our Halloween buck. Our trick-or-treat hours were the Sunday before Halloween. The weather was perfect and both kids had a blast (we also got candy from a local radio personality who apparently lives down the street from us). We also celebrated with friends the morning of real Halloween, then drove to my parents that afternoon, trick-or-treated again with family/friends and then left the kids with my parents and actually went to an adult Halloween party at a friend’s in Chicago. An absolutely perfect mix of people and events that made the long day totally worth it.

halloween14-13

halloween14-12

halloween14-10

1466263_10102632493893090_8792241642738213994_n

Toddler Valentine’s Day

In all the hype surrounding the romantic side of Valentine’s Day… gifts, cards, dates, chocolate recipes (especially when you’re planning content for a lifestyle site – I have been living and breathing all of those topics), I had almost forgotten how much fun Valentine’s Day was as a kid.

Disney Princess valentines torn along the dotted lines. Candy hearts. Stickers. A pink hair bow. An exciting whirl of an afternoon slipping cards into your classmates’ decorated shoeboxes.

Peter and I did go out for a nice dinner this year on Valentine’s Day eve. It was romantic and very adult. I tried foie gras. But Friday morning I was reminded how fun and festive the holiday of pink and red is for those to whom a kiss is the thing that makes an owie better and a heart is one of the five shapes you can identify.

We went to a little party with some of Corban’s best buds and their moms. It started with lots of playing – with 11 kids ranging from age 5 months to 5 years it’s more like strangely choreographed chaos interrupted by occasional tears – and eventually moved to craft time for the older kids.

vday2014-7

vday2014-12

Yes, Corban is now one of the “older kids.” I don’t know when that happened and why it now seems like he’s always been one.

vday2014-9

They decorated picture frames for their dads with fun Valentine’s Day stickers.

vday2014-10

Then they made drawings to put in the frames.

vday2014-11

Somehow the pictures make this seem like a calm and controlled affair, but it was more like trying to keep a bunch of cats sitting at a table. I’m glad I was able to sneak away to snap some pictures, but crafts with a two-year-old are always very hands-on adventures!

vday2014-8

After Corban completed his frame, he decided to rip all the stickers off and throw them on the floor. I may have done a bit of reconstruction.

vday2014-15

Next on the agenda: cupcakes.

vday2014-5

Not hard to keep kids still for the approximately 2 minutes it takes to eat a cupcake!

vday2014-13

Then, the valentine exchange.

vday2014-14

There are so many cute ideas out there for DIY kid valentines. Oh, the puns! I promised myself I wouldn’t get too ambitious this year, but I wanted Corban to have some sort of hand in what he gave to his friends. Here’s what we ended up making:

vday2014-4

These were very easy to throw together the day before. I made a heart stamp from an empty toilet paper roll and had Corban (admittedly with the help of his nanny, not me) stamp hearts with white paint onto folded pieces of red construction paper.

vday2014-3

Then I filled resealable sandwich bags with about an inch of Valentine’s Day M&Ms…

vday2014-1

…and folded the tops down and stapled the construction paper sandwiched over the bag.

vday2014-2

So simple and fun to put together.

If you’re wondering what little Mara looked like on her first Valentine’s Day… well, I’d be happy to show you.

vday2014-17

vday2014-18

Sweet and smiling as usual.

Hope you had as lovely a Valentine’s Day as we did. I’m hoping to get back here with some more updates soon since it’s been a while!

Basketball-themed 2nd birthday party

If only every birthday could be as joy-filled as a 2nd birthday!

My baby Corban turned two years old yesterday, and if I stop and ruminate on that for too long I’ll get teary eyed. He had a most wonderful day celebrating with family, and I had the best time watching him enjoy himself so much.

corban2ndbirthday6

We decided for birthday #2 to do a family party, and since none of our families live in the same state as us, we moved the festivities to my parents’ house. One of Corban’s main loves right now is basketball, so a basketball-themed party it was. This was definitely an easy theme to pull off.

Basketball eating paraphernalia…

corban2ndbirthday3

Basketball cake on a basketball court table cloth…

corban2ndbirthday1

Basketball cookies…

corban2ndbirthday2

Basketball mandarin oranges…

corban2ndbirthday18

And (not pictured) basketball cutouts hanging from the ceiling and other assorted basketball decorations. I had to resist buying a basketball piñata from the party store…

The menu:

corban2ndbirthday4

We just did appetizer foods since the party was at 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s not easy picking a party time for a 2-year-old, and we failed miserably with our 2:30 gamble. Corban would not fall asleep for his nap when we put him down at noon. I’m sure the fact that he knew it was his birthday and that we were having cake later did not help. As our final last-ditch effort, Peter lay down with him until he passed out… at 2:15. So we let the birthday boy nap for an hour and be late for his own party.

After being woken up from his nap and presented into a basketball-laden basement full of both strange and familiar faces, Corban was a little overwhelmed. He quickly warmed up, though.

corban2ndbirthday15

Aside from his little sister, C was the only kid at his party. And Mara snoozed almost the entire time.

corban2ndbirthday19

He I was honored to have some of my dear high school friends in attendance, though.

corban2ndbirthday14

After a while, Corban got ahold of a dessert plate and a fork and made it known that he was ready for cake.

corban2ndbirthday20

“Cake? Cake?”

He had this very disconcerted look on his face the entire time as we sang to him. His head turned from one side of the room to the other, slowly taking it all in.

corban2ndbirthday7

But at the end of the song, he knew what to do.

corban2ndbirthday8

And then he stuck his fork in the cake, claiming it as his own.

corban2ndbirthday9

corban2ndbirthday10

corban2ndbirthday16

I debated telling guests not to bring a gift, like we did for Corban’s first birthday, but I’m glad I didn’t because Corban had SO much fun opening gifts.

corban2ndbirthday11

He reacted with such genuine pleasure after each one. He wanted to stop and play with each gift immediately after opening it.

corban2ndbirthday12

We had to whisk them away from him to keep things moving along.

corban2ndbirthday13

“The first Elmo that hugs back” — a little creepy, but C is in love with “Big Elmo.”

Corban slept on our long, snowy drive back home last night. He woke up as we pulled in, so I sat him in my lap in his room to read a book before putting him back to sleep. After we read, he groggily murmured, “Birthday,” followed by, “cake…” and “people…” and I could see the little wheels turning in his head as he processed the day and his very special party. It makes me so content to witness such pure toddler joy and wonder every day, and when it comes to joy and wonder his second birthday just couldn’t be topped.

Since I probably won’t get the chance to write a separate two-year update, here are just some of the things I don’t want to forget about my sweet little Corban at age two:

  • The way he pumps one arm up and down so fiercely when he runs.
  • Playing fire truck on the basement couch. He demands that I drive (fast), he honk the horn and we both get out and fight the fire with pool noodles.
  • His little voice saying, “Miss!” when he or someone else misses a basketball shot.
  • His backseat renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
  • His repeated requests for “Monkey song” on my phone.
  • The way he counts — adding emphasis to every third number or so (“one, two, THREE!! four, five, six, SEVEN!!”)
  • The way he eagerly points out, “Open eyes?” when Mara wakes up, and always looks out for his sister’s wellbeing by putting her pacifier back in her mouth, alerting me when she spits up or rocking her car seat if she starts fussing when we’re at the grocery store. He also points out when she smiles, or asks me to make her smile.
  • The way he pronounces Corban (“Corgo”) and refers to himself in the third person.
  • His love for Biggles and daily requests to have him sit in his lap or come play with him.
  • How his imagination is just beginning to blossom: he treats his stuffed animals like best friends, soaks in the pretend games I teach him (like fire truck, picnic and singing performances) and reads to himself.
  • The irrepressible fun he has with his little friends, and how he mentions them by (mispronounced) name when he’s not with them.
  • The feel of his snuggly head on my shoulder as I hold him and sing to him before bed.

I finally did a quick glance through all the video clips I’ve collected over the past two years and put together a snapshot of Corban’s life thus far to screen at his party. Here it is. Amazing how quickly these two years have gone by!

Recipe for a perfect Milwaukee weekend

If all weekends were like this past weekend, I’d have no complaints! Here’s my recipe for a perfect Milwaukee weekend.

Ingredients:

For Friday:

1 girls movie night

BridgetJonesDiaryMoviePoster

1 plateful of unhealthy snacks

Many fun conversations

For Saturday:

24 hours of gorgeous weather

1 BFF in town to visit

lakewalk

2 miles walked along Lake Michigan

greatweekend5

1 sweet toddler who refused to keep a plastic firefighter hat on his head, but didn’t mind sitting in the truck

greatweekend6

greatweekend8

Table for 3 on the patio at Wolf Peach

greatweekend4

2.5-hour nap for baby

45-minute naps for adults

3 blooming trees in our backyard

greatweekend1

5 restaurants visited on a walking food tour of the Third Ward

1 weird band at a Gatsby-themed party at the Milwaukee County Historical Society (awesome building)

greatweekend9

7 old vaults in the building

greatweekend3

A basementful of historic Milwaukee artifacts, seen on a quick tour

1 hour of jazz at Caroline’s

11 p.m.-ish bedtime after a full day

For Sunday:

1 enlightening sermon during church

3 bump-friendly summer dresses bought at Marshall’s

2 seats at the bar of St. Paul Fish Company in the Milwaukee Public Market

1 lobster dinner (best deal in town) and 1 tuna melt for a late lunch

1 hug goodbye

2-mile (roundtrip) walk to a new-to-me park

40 minutes of playtime on the slides and steps

1 mom and 1 grandma in town for Monday babysitting

greatweekend7

3 cups full of self-serve frozen yogurt piled with toppings

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in succession for weekend filled with lots of smiles.

So, anyone else want to visit Milwaukee? I’ll keep you busy! As long as I have inertia, I can just keep going and going.

It’s weekends like these that remind me why I love living here. Sometimes showing your city to an out-of-town guest is the best way to enjoy it. And for the record, I would highly recommend all of the above restaurants and activities if you’re in the area.

Although I said “no complaints” about this weekend, I really do have one complaint. I didn’t get to spend much time with Peter. He graciously stayed home with Corban both nights so I could have fun with friends. Truthfully, he prefers to stay home… but I think he would have preferred me to be there with him. So that was the one imperfect part of the weekend.

But I’ll end on a good note: while the weekend was loads of fun, the week so far has been productive. Last night and tonight I got my garden (just spinach and lettuce so far) covered to keep little munchers out, ran some overdue errands, cleared my closet of non-maternity-friendly clothes and got four loads of laundry done and put away (mostly thanks to my mom and grandma). Getting things done feels good too.

Groundhog Day and Corban’s first steps

Everyone keeps referring to this weekend as Super Bowl weekend, but to us it was Groundhog Day weekend.

Peter has always adored the movie “Groundhog Day,” and he successfully got me on board with it shortly after we started dating. It’s a movie we can both watch over and over (how appropriate). So this year we took advantage of February 2nd falling on a Saturday and decided to celebrate the holiday and the movie with a bunch of friends from church.

There were groundhog cookies…

groundhogday00

(Decorating cutout cookies makes me crazy! I must remember this next time I am tempted to make cutesy cookies.)

Groundhog cupcakes…

groundhogday04

(Thanks, Laura!)

Woodchuck cider…

(Did you know groundhog = woodchuck?)

And acorns.

groundhogday01

(Because groundhogs are similar to squirrels, right?)

Corban actually got his first taste of chocolate after snatching one of the acorns out of the bowl while I was photographing them. He loved it, of course.

groundhogday02

Other than that, it was just a normal party with lots and lots of food. I went with my tried and true menu of homemade barbecue pulled pork, Chinese salad, green salad and baked beans. Plus lots of snacks and desserts provided by our guests.

Peter and I love to have people over, and we usually throw at least one decent party each year. Strangely, I’ve found that the more planning I put into an event, the more stressed I am during the party. This is probably because when I plan in too much detail, I overcomplicate it by doing things like beer-tasting tournaments, overly ambitious meals and detailed decorating.

This party was quite low stress, despite including lots of homemade food. No decorating, no worrying about friend groups mixing awkwardly, no activities planned (besides some people watching the movie). We kept it simple, and therefore were able to have fun during the party. I love party planning, but too often I end up enjoying the planning but stressing during the party itself — I should be able to enjoy both!

—–

In even more exciting news (more exciting than Groundhog Day? No kidding)… Corban took his first steps on Thursday!

This was one of the coolest parenting moments for me so far. It was unexpected, too. He’s been standing on his own and cruising along furniture, but none of us expected him to just get up out of his mini rocking chair and walk. But that’s exactly what happened. Two unanticipated steps. We all (meaning Peter, my friend Litzy, who was over for dinner, and I) just laughed in astonishment.

Aforementioned rocking chair, though not on the day he walked.

Aforementioned rocking chair, though not on the day he walked.

I also breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was there to see it. The sad truth is that I am at work during more than half of his waking hours, so there was a good chance I would miss this milestone. I’m thanking God that I didn’t!

Aside from a few other single steps that we coaxed out of him that night, he hasn’t done any more walking. He’s still content with his expert crawling. So for now I’ll just continue to enjoy my baby who loves to be held, cuddled and chauffeured around on my hip before he turns into an independent toddler.

—–

In other news, I missed the halftime show, but enjoyed an even better splashtime show instead.

groundhogday05

Halloween fun

Because Milwaukee is strange and holds trick-or-treating on weekend days if Halloween falls on a weekday, I feel like it’s already over. I guess it pretty much is, since we had trick-or-treating tonight, so there isn’t really much left to celebrate. Still three more days till the actual holiday though!

Corban’s first Halloween was pretty low key, but we had a great time.

Friday, we carved/decorated pumpkins with friends. I got Corban his own baby pumpkin – a pie pumpkin, actually, so perhaps I’ll roast it at some point – and while the rest of the kids painted and carved, he sat and held it (and probably had just as much fun). We like to keep things simple.

An ice cream scoop also provided some entertainment.

I enjoyed carving my own pumpkin – one of my favorite annual traditions that has been forsaken the past couple years.

For a while, Corban had a crayon in his hand, and when we got home I noticed his pumpkin looked like this:

That seems a little advanced for a 10-month-old, so I’m guessing someone else did it, but it’s proudly displayed as part of our kitchen table centerpiece anyway.

Those flowers were a great investment. I bought them several weeks ago at the grocery store and they still look relatively fresh.

Anyway, tonight Corban debuted his very first Halloween costume! I had started brainstorming ideas last month for a cute baby costume before I remembered that I already had one – and actually had for several years. It’s a costume that has a special meaning too.

Back in high school, my friends and I were obsessed with lobsters. We had a lobster hat that bonded us together in a lifelong sisterhood.

Lobster even came to my wedding.

These are the kinds of photos that happen at a 22-year-old’s wedding.

Anyway, suffice to say lobsters have a special place in my heart. A friend sent me the baby lobster costume four years ago, and it’s been sitting in my closet ever since. It fits Corban perfectly right now, so my baby Halloween costume search was cut short and made very easy.

He’s ready for candy!

Just kidding.

We just spent the evening visiting with our neighbors. C was a trooper, as always, tolerating the bonnet like a champ. He did look like a girl with his pink pacifier, though.

By the time it was dark enough for my pumpkin to come to life, trick-or-treating was over.

I lit it anyway.

—–

Halloween costumes: please share! What are you or your kids dressing up as?

Coming up for air

Today felt special.

It wasn’t. It was just a regular old Saturday at home. I took Corban for a walk, we played on swings at the park, Peter and I got crazy ambitious and cleaned our entire (previously very cluttered and messy) bedroom and a few other rooms, Corban splashed in the baby pool, I made this for dinner and this for dessert, we watched some Olympics. We did, you know, normal Saturday-at-home things.

But it felt special. You see, this was our first Saturday at home in almost a month! I had forgotten how much you can get done around the house when you have an entire day at your disposal. It felt gooood.

We’ve made it through the craziest part of our crazy summer of weddings. Two more in the next month, then one in November, but the crazy back-to-back everything time is over. The past two months’ weekends have looked something like this: out-of-town shower/bachelorette party, Memorial Day weekend, out-of-town shower/bachelorette party, weekend home, out-of-town wedding, out-of-town wedding, in-town wedding, Fourth of July weekend, out-of-town wedding, out-of-town bachelorette party (high school reunion for Peter and Corban), out-of-town wedding, THIS WEEKEND.

It’s all been fun. Really fun. I feel blessed that we have had so many opportunities to travel and see friends and family this summer. And that’s made all the sacrifices (clean house, home-cooked meals, time to breathe) worth it.

But, man, was it nice to just be home today with no plans!

I have lots to write about – I’m back to work full time, we have a new nanny, Corban is growing up so fast(!), etc. – though things haven’t fully calmed down yet so we’ll have to see if I can find any time to blog over the next few days/weeks. In the meantime here are some photos to represent our summer so far. It’s been crazy, and challenging at times, but we’ve had a blast.

Emily’s bridal shower in Naperville

My sister, Lauren’s, bridal shower in Naperville

Audra’s wedding in St. Louis

Father’s Day in St. Louis

Michelle’s wedding in Virginia Beach | Photo by Hampton Roads Photography

Litzy’s wedding in Cedarburg, Wisc. | Photo by Tim Fitch https://www.facebook.com/timfitchphoto

Litzy’s wedding in Cedarburg, Wisc. | Photo by Tim Fitch https://www.facebook.com/timfitchphoto

Julie’s wedding in Appleton, Wisc.

Lauren’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas

Lauren’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas

Emily’s wedding in Chicago

Emily’s wedding in Chicago

34 weeks old

Texting his buddies

7-month update

What a month! I’ve been absent here because I’ve been so busy, but this month has brought lots of fun and some new milestones.

Age: 7 months
Weight: ~20 pounds (has slowed down on the gaining)
Clothes: 9-month onesies, but still wearing 6-month too (ok, even thought they’re a little tight…)
Hair: Light brown, super soft, bald spot has filled in
Eyes: Deep blue on the outside with golden brown around the pupil
Sleep:
Was sleeping through the night for a few weeks, then started waking consistently at 3:30 a.m.; Still usually takes 3 naps a day and cries for a few minutes at the beginning of each
Noises: Lots of loud laughs, grunts and high-pitched “Ah”s
Nursing: Still at least 5 times a day when I’m not working
Solids: Feeding himself soft pieces of broccoli, sweet potato, avocado, banana and cantaloupe once a day; sometimes we skip days
Teething: Two bottom teeth!
Sitting: Unsteadily, but yes.
Mobility: So squirmy and wishes he could crawl
Essential items: Play mat, plastic links

A closer look at the elusive eye color.

Teeth! Sitting! Solids! Lots of big developments this month, though after looking back on his 6-month update, it doesn’t seem like he’s changed that much. Corban is still a happy little dude who does well in almost any situation.

Case in point: Aside from all the drooling, you wouldn’t have known he was teething. No fussing for no reason or loss of sleep (though I’m not too happy with the recent resurgence of his 3:30 a.m. wakeup) and he never seemed to be in pain. The only ones hurting are Peter and me, as he still loves putting our fingers in his mouth, and those chompers are razor sharp.

I’m sure the teeth are helping at least a little with eating solids. We are not entirely consistent with his meals, as I haven’t had our nanny feeding him anything but milk, so we skip days here and there when things get busy. But he is getting pretty good at picking little pieces up and eating them. Or, more often, chewing them until they come falling back out of his mouth. Manners will come later.

With the super slippery foods like avocado, if he gets frustrated I will put a piece on the tips of my fingers and let him bring my hand to his mouth like a spoon. I finally gave him his first fruit on the Fourth of July (banana) and it was the first food that didn’t cause him to make a funny face when it hit his tongue. But even if he doesn’t love the taste of the vegetables, he still is eager to eat them.

He is getting more coordinated in endeavors aside from eating, too. He loves banging his hands on his high chair, legs or anywhere he can find a flat surface. He has become a serial hair grabber, and has a painfully strong grip. He even grabs his own hair sometimes. Corban also enjoys holding onto his toes and removing/replacing his pacifier when he doesn’t want to go to sleep.

23 seconds of banging:

Rockin’ the mom tankini.

This month I was away from Corban for three entire days, at my friend’s wedding in Virginia Beach. Thankfully I was so busy enjoying every minute with my college girlfriends and participating in all the wedding festivities that I didn’t have much time to miss Little C. He got to see all four of his great-grandparents on my side that weekend when Peter took a trip to visit my family.

Corban also attended his first wedding, which, oddly, Peter and I didn’t go to. While we were at my friend’s wedding in St. Louis, Corban went with Peter’s brothers and parents to his cousin’s wedding two hours away. He stayed up an hour or two past his bed time without getting too upset, and Peter and I spent our first night together away from C. It was a little strange being able to sleep in!

Dolled up for his first wedding.

Corban is becoming a little daredevil. While loud sounds tend to scare him (he sometimes cries when I use the blender – it is so sad!), he laughs when I hold him high up above me or lean him all the way backwards, almost completely upside down, in my lap. He also laughs at peek-a-boo, with an intense emphasis on the “boo.”

My bad mommy award moment happened the other week, just as C was getting decent at sitting up on his own for a few seconds at a time. I sat him down in front of me, then reached for my camera to take a picture. A second after I took my hands off him, he fell backwards like a tree, hitting his head on the carpet. Poor baby cried hard, probably more from shock than anything else.

He still isn’t fully stable sitting up on his own, but there has been marked improvement over the past week or two, and I know he’ll be sitting, crawling, walking (oh my!) in no time.

It’s really amazing to see Corban doing things that never seemed possible just a month or two ago. Babies grow and develop so quickly, and I feel privileged to watch it all unfold before me. Every time I see his sweet little lump of a body sleeping peacefully in his crib, I just want to freeze time so I can kiss his chubby cheeks, grab his soft toes and see that giant gummy smile every day forever. At the same time, I know each new stage brings new fun to be had, and I look forward to enjoying whatever comes next.