Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wisconsin Dells (round 4)

Wisconsin Dells, it's where dreams are made (if you are between the ages for 2-6).  We've been going to the Dells annually now since Abby was about 1.5 years old.  It started with just us and the Stadermann family, but we quickly added the Brackemyer's to the mix and this year, we've hit our stride!!

We took half day's on Friday (and pulled Abby out of school early which hasn't happened before, so she was excited) and we headed up to the Dells early afternoon on Friday.  Let me tell you, that is the ticket!  We got there around 3pm on Friday afternoon which meant the kids had plenty of time to swim and run and play while the adults sat pool side, eating pizza and having a few adult beverages.  The six kids, ranging from Connor who just turned 6 a few weeks ago, to Hazel (2.5) all had the best time.  Lucy was there too, but at just 1.5, she wasn't overall impressed by the whole thing.  It's loud, a little cool, and the bottom of the pools are scratchy, so, I'm guessing by next year, she'll be all in all day!

My kids get so excited for this trip.  I think it has to do with the cold, dark, short days of winter and a glimmer of hope that putting on a swimming suit gives you.  Like, someday soon, we'll be back to pool side/lake side living...but for these two days in March, we can pretend its warmer than it is and that summer is closer than it actually is.

We let the kids be wild and stay up a little late on Friday night, knowing we still had all day Saturday to play and explore.  Since we've been going there for 4 years now, you'd think we'd have our routine all set and we'd remember which areas were best and for what reasons, but I think it took up until this year to finally get the routine down.  We started on Friday night at Wild West (easily the kids favorite area this year).  Then Saturday morning we went over to the Wilderness on the Lake and Cubby Cove.  The Cove area is much smaller (with no large slides) but the water is much warmer and it's usually less crowded in those early hours when everyone just wants to be at the pool.

We headed back to the condo for lunch and naps (for those who needed them, me included) and then made our way to Klondike Kavern with the lazy river and the biggest of the slides.  Unfortunately, that area was the most crowded, the lazy river was more like a CRAZY river (it was packed and moving very quickly) and the slides were all too big for our littles to go on.  So, we let the dad's get a few slides in and then hiked back to Wild West where we finished out the day.

All in all, that was the ticket!  That and the Friday afternoon arrival.  In fact, we were so happy with that that I think next year we may plan to stay on Thursday and Friday night's coming home Saturday so that we can avoid the crazy crowds.  It was so much more fun when it wasn't as busy...and I have a feeling the week nights are the ticket to that.

Since I've got more pictures than stories, I suppose I'll share a bad parent moment we had.  On Friday when we got there, the kids were so excited to just run and play that we had a hard time keeping them all together.  I forced everyone to take a few pictures before they ran in 100 directions but once they got inside the play area they were hard to keep track of.  Abby, Stella and Hazel all took off with Ryan following closely behind, so Jamie and I set to getting our tables all set and unpacking our stuff.

I sat down figuring Ryan had the kids and just started chatting and taking it all in.  A few minutes later I spotted Hazel walking towards us, tears in her eyes, but walking straight for us.  I figured she'd fallen or something and Ryan had sent her over to me.  I popped up to give him a wave, that I saw her and would take care of it, but I didn't see him.  I figured we was somewhere close and he could see me, so I grabbed her and started talking to her to see what was wrong.  A few seconds later a sweet life guard walked over asking "Is she with you? She was just walking around crying so I figured I'd follow her until she found someone she knew".  Sheesh...baby Mommy moment for sure!  I had no idea where she'd come from, or where Ryan was.  I figured he was worried about her too, so we set off to then find him and Abby.

Well, turns out the big kids ditched her inside the maze of tunnels and steps so she figured out how to get down (alone?  EKK!) and came to find me.  Ryan said that once they got inside it was trying to chase a herd of wild cats, which, I get it!  It is!  But still, I felt terrible for not keeping a closer eye.  But, luckily it turned out ok, thankfully!  And, kudos to that life guard who knew enough to watch her until she found us.  For her, I'm so thankful!  (I promise we did a better job of watching them....and teaching the bigger kids to stay together, after that point).

All in all, another great weekend in the books.  I've got tons more pictures to share, so keep reading if you want to see what else we were up to this weekend.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Valentines Day Dance 2017

One of the things about Abby being our first child to go to school, means we often have NO CLUE what to expect when it comes to school functions.  Like, don't even ask me about the first week of school.  I spent the first 2 months of Kindergarten feeling like I had no clue what was going on. Shoot, I still feel that way!  But, slowly but surely we're getting through the year and by the time Hazel comes through we'll know just what to expect.  Well, the Valentines Day dance was no different.  First off, the REAL dance was canceled a few weeks ago due to a big snow storm that came through.  Abby was so bummed to miss it (and to sad she couldn't take her Valentines Day cookies I'd bought to send along) that when we saw the note come home that it was rescheduled, and we were actually going to be home for it, I was sure it would be a hit.

Well, apparently, it was a hit, until they actually got there.  First off though, isn't Ryan so cute in these pictures.  It's so rare that he dresses up, I thought it was so sweet when he asked if I thought he should wear a suit.  I told him he probably didn't need to, but it would be sweet if he did.  That it would make it feel special to Abby.  Well, turns out, he was the ONLY guy in a suit there.  Ryan is NEVER the overdressed one, so I'm sure he felt like a fish out of water. 

Apparently it was sort of a free-for-all with all the little kids just running around screaming and super loud music.  There was very little parent/kid dancing happening and even less for Abby because she was all caught up that she didn't win a raffle prize.  Of course some of her friends had found glow sticks somewhere and she didn't have one so that was a huge catastrophe as well.  Abby's good at a lot of things, but getting over something (or just putting it out of her mind) is NOT one of them.  Ryan said she spent most of the dance grumping around that she didn't have XYZ and saying she wasn't having any fun.  Boo!!

At least she looked excited on the front end!  They ended up leaving a little early and Abby and I had a talk about being thankful and grateful and about how only you get to pick your attitude.  I guess, we'll call it a learning experience and keep our fingers crossed that next year goes a little smoother. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hazel's Quilt

Please excuse these less than ideal pictures.  I realized when taking these that I always used to photograph my quilts using the clothes line in the back yard of our old house.  We don't have on here so taking pictures of these big quilts is super tough.  It's hard to get the camera up high enough and straight enough to get a good shot.  And let's not even get started on the lighting.  If there wasn't 12 + inches of snow on the ground right now, I'd take them outside.  But, this is going to have to do.

This is Hazel's quilt made out of the fabric everyone sent for her weekly picture project.  Just like with Abby, I took pictures of Hazel each week on a different yard of fabric.  It was a great way to show how she grew, talk about the loved ones that help contribute to the quilt and make something super special and memorable for her to have and cherish for always.

I sent this quilt away to be quilted, and I think I will send out all my quilts from this point on.  I've never been happy with my own free-motion or straight line quilting and while I know the only way to improve is to practice, it's also a little disheartening when you put hours and hours and lots of money into a quilt only to be unhappy with one of the final steps.  So, I'll subcontract that part of my quilting process and I'll be so much happier with the result.

Hazel's quilt is ever so slightly smaller than the queen sized one I made for Abby.  Hazel's crib will convert to a double bed when we transition her so I made this quilt the same length as Abby's but slightly smaller width wise so it would fit her big girl bed.  I also felt like a queen size was a big too big for a couch blanket which is what I'm guessing these will become when the girls are big enough to want to pick their own bedding.  I'm hoping they drag these things to college, to their first houses and use them for years and years to come...but only time will tell.

The herringbone pattern I picked for this quilt is similar to what I did for Abby, but different too.  I like that the blocks are nice and big to show off the fabric and i love that I stuck with my gut and used white as the contrast.  I did a very light blue for Abby's because I was worried about the white getting dirty etc but I'd wished I went with my staple white or grey.  Here's a link to Abby's quilt if you want to compare.

For Hazel's back I decided to just use up some of my favorite pieces of fabric from her photo project.  It's a nice way to use up some of the 50+ yards of fabric I have, and a fun way to showcase some of my personal favorites.  I wish I'd done the same for Abby's.  I realized that I'm very drawn to the bright, multicolored fabrics with big patterns on them, but they are hard to incorporate into quilts where you aren't going for a scrappy or childish look.  I have LOTS and LOTS of novelty fabric around here after doing these two photo projects spanning a total of four years, so if anyone out there wants to pick through my stash, you're more than welcome!

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Christmas Present for Ellyn - Quilt

It's been SO long since I had a quilt to share with you all.  In fact, it might be going on the one year mark here soon.  I should check back in my old blogs. Anyways, get excited, because I've got, not just one, but two quilts coming your way here soon.  The first is a Christmas present that Erin and I teamed up to make for Ellyn.  Sometime near the end of October Erin sent me a text saying "I wish we would have made a quilt for my mom this year..." and I knew we needed to try and make that happen.  2017 was not the easiest year for the McGrath family.  I don't like to focus on the negative in this space, so that often means that you don't get the full story on what's going on in our lives.  But, 2017 was tough and it was even tougher for Ellyn.  Right after her birthday (April) she was diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic cancer.  It took the entire family by surprise and Ellyn as been bravely fighting since that diagnosis.

Erin wanted a quilt for her mom for Christmas, and lord help me if I wasn't going to work my butt off to help make that happen.  We picked out a pattern from a book called "Weekend Quilts".  Guys, that title is a total joke.  When they say "weekend", they mean that you could have the top done in a weekend...and that's if you do nothing else but quilt.  After deciding on a pattern we opted to head to the local Joann's to pick out fabric.  I almost always buy my fabric online because I like the selection better but we didn't have a ton of time and it was fun to stand in the store together and hand pick our fabric.  We chose this "gem tone" color pallet with some yellows thrown in there to brighten it up.

Over the course of about 3 weeks Erin and I managed to pull off an entire quilt top.  We worked on some pieces alone at our respective houses and then came together and spent at least 3 full days sewing to get this puppy done in time.  Luckily Erin's job is flexible and she was able to spend some week days here sewing while I worked and checked in/helped where I could.  I'd pick up in evenings and on weekends and somehow it all came together pretty quickly.  This is the first time I've ever worked collaboratively on a quilt and I gotta say, I love it!  It's like painting a room with two people.  One edges, one rolls.  Each is so caught up in their job that when you finally look up, you've got the whole thing done and it went super fast.

We shipped it off to the quilter (a friend of Erin's) Thanksgiving weekend.  Since the quilter was a friend, and the cause was worthy, she bumped us to the front of the line and we got the quilted blanket back mid-December.  Erin and I put on the finishing touches Christmas Eve night and this was wrapped and under the tree in time for Christmas morning!

I think Ellyn loved this present and I'm hoping that she's getting tons of use out of it.  It was made with a lot of love by some pretty special girls...so I hope it brings her happiness when she uses it!

*I didn't think to grab pictures of it before we gifted it so I'll have to get some next time I see Ellyn and update the post for you.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Adventures in Potty Training - Round 2

Potty training - what can I say?  It's not the most fun transition in the world, but, it's gotta happen and boy does it feel good to be mostly diaper free!  I'd say at this point we are 95% of the way there.  I did some things different this time around, but I did a lot the same, because you don't fix what ain't broken, right?  So, for all those moms out there with little ones, here's what worked for us and how we did it.

1. How old? - I potty trained both my kids over winter break when they were around 2.5 years old.  Abby was born in August, and Hazel in late June, so they were roughly the same age when we took the potty training plunge.  I honestly think I dreaded doing Hazel more than Abby because looking back I knew that potty training Abby was SUPER easy.  Like, it was going to be a miracle if both the kids were super easy...so I worked myself into believing that this was going to be rough.  To be honest, it was...for about a week...and then it was done!

2.  Why Christmas break? - Well, the answer is two fold - extended time with me and very little planned.  It's one of the few times a year that I was going to be with the kids 24/7 for an extended period of time.  For both girls we did a potty training boot-camp of sorts.  Like, we did literally NOTHING other than stay home, run around naked and practice going potty.  We had very few outings and daycare was closed for the week, so I had the kids all to myself.  (I was exhausted when the week was over).  If you know us, you know that we are RARELY in one spot for very long.  We spend LOTS of time away from home on the weekends and even during the week we find our schedules full.  The week between Christmas and New Years is relatively quiet for us.

3.  Did you use rewards? -  I read a book recently that discouraged the use of rewards during potty training.  The logic is sound - potty training is a development milestone, similar to walking and talking, and we don't reward those...so why reward potty training?  True, good point.  But, you know what, M&M's worked for me before and they are a great motivator, so I bought a $3 bag, and felt zero guilt in passing them out when we had successes.

I'd have to say though, we weened off the M&M's much faster this round than with Abby.  The biggest reason for that, was well, Abby.  You see, she was a GREAT helper in this endeavor.  Honestly I think she did a lot of the training herself.  She was super excited to help Hazel and watch her - mostly because whenever Hazel went, I coughed up an M&M for them both.  HAHAHAHA!  You read that right, when Hazel pee'd, Abby also got an M&M.  It worked...it really did.  Abby was super motivated to help and celebrate our successes but she also drove me crazy asking for M&M's.  When I sent Hazel to daycare the following week (7 days post potty training boot-camp) we cut out all M&M's and that was the end of that.  Easy peasy!

4.  Little portable potty or training seats? - We did a combination of the two.  A few years ago we sprung for some really nice toilet seats on amazon that have a built in kid sided ring that hides in the main ring.  They weren't cheap but we bought them for all the toilets in our house figuring we had quite a few years ahead of us in which we'd need them, plus friend's kids after that.  So, this time around I was adamant that we wouldn't drag out that little plastic potty.  My thinking was "why transition again?".  Well, as you can tell from the picture above, that didn't last for long.  I quickly realized that the little potty was two things: fun and portable.  First of all, Hazel was excited to sit on the stupid thing because it was new, fun and played music.  Secondly, it was portable.  When I trained Abby we used this toilet too but I swore we'd keep it in the bathroom (because, that's where potty happens...not like a diaper when you go where ever, whenever) and I stuck to that rule.  We logged a LOT of hours in the bathroom when I trained Abby.  This time around, I gave in and we moved that thing right into the living room.  Gross? Yes.  Practical, you betcha!  You see, now, she could do her thing, be with us and I could still run the house.  I wasn't stuck sitting in the bathroom all the live long day.  It worked great!!

Oh, and, another plus of the plastic potty - well, really two.  One, it plays music when she went so I didn't need to be close by to know we'd had a success.  I could hear the music (and so could my helper, Abby) so that made it easy.  And two, it's impossible to tell if a kid actually pees on a real potty unless you hear it happen.  In this thing, there is no water to start, so if there's water, it's pee and you know she went.  It made my fly by parenting that much easier to know if/when she went using the plastic potty.  So, even though it wasn't my original plan, I'd call it a win.

5.  A potty journal: This was a tip I got from another mom when I trained Abby and it 100% worked for me then and again this time.  I kept a little journal of every single time she went pee...accidents, successes, pee's, poops, real potty, plastic potty etc.  I literally wrote it all down.  It helped me to see trends (like she always goes poop at this time of day) and to see trending success.  Like, day over day, we've been getting better.  I suggest this to anyone doing potty training.  It's hard, we get caught up in all the other things going on (especially if you have other kids) so this helps to keep you on track and focused.  And, to see when it might be time to suggest we try going.  Like, every hour on the hour, we sat down and tried.  If she went, great.  If not, we tried again in 10 minutes.  Exhausting, yes! Productive, you betcha!

6.  Naked or with clothes? - This one was a hard one for Hazel.  With both kids I started off with no pants on (yes, I knew that meant I might be cleaning up pee on the floor but it happened less than you'd expect).  With Abby, we did no pants for 1 day and then we put on training underwear (thicker than normal underwear, but not pull ups...these are still cloth - check Amazon).  Anyways, with Hazel we were 3 days in and she was still running around with no pants on.  She could do an entire day with no accidents if she was naked, but put on unders or pants and it was done for.  I was certain THIS would be the thing we couldn't transition past.  But, as with all things, that passed and it was fine. She had more accidents than Abby did, which was hard on me....I felt like we weren't making progress.  But, each kid is different and I'd forgotten that perspective when I was "in it".

7.  Are you really diaper free now? - the answer is no...and I don't expect to be really truly out of them for awhile yet.  Hazel still gets a diaper for naps and for bedtime.  She is still in a crib, so asking her to stay dry and be trapped isn't fair.  We'll transition to a bed sometime in the next few months, but I know it took Abby to nearly 3.5 before she could make it through the night without a diaper.  We aren't diaper free yet, but we've made huge strides and that's all I was asking for.

8.  What about in the car? - We used a diaper on car rides/errands that would keep us out of the house for awhile.  At first it was anytime we left, and now, we've made it the last two weekends on car rides over 3 hours long without diapers.  She'll tell us she needs to go and she's successfully waiting until we could pull over and find a bathroom.  I am sure we'll have set backs, but at this point, I'd say we are done with diapers in the car.  In fact, she fights me when I try to put it on her so, we told her she had to go in the potty and she's done great with it.  This happened much faster for Hazel than it did Abby...I'm reluctant to call this one a success yet at this point, I'm probably just jinxing us!

You're probably getting sick of reading this and I don't have many pictures to show you so I'll wrap this up.  At 2.5 months into this adventure, I'd say we're 95% trained.  It's been weeks since she had an accident, either here or at daycare.  We've transitioned out of the training underwear into real big kid underwear, we no longer do rewards, we don't use the plastic potty anymore, she poops in the potty and can make it on long car rides...and hold it when needed.  She asks to go to the bathroom during swim lessons (when she has a swim diaper on) and she even wakes up dry from naps sometimes.  I'd say we're potty trained!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Copper McGrath - A New Addition

Well, I'm sure it's not much of a surprise at this point, but I figured I should formally introduce our newest addition to the family, Copper.  It's been just about a year and a half since we put my sweet Lily down and it's honestly taken me that long to decide I was ready for a second dog.  If it was up to Ryan, we'd have had one a long time ago.  But, two dogs is a LOT of work...and two dogs with two kids is even more work...and a puppy is the MOST work.  Mostly for me.  I'm home with these ding-dongs 24/7 and while he is super sweet and he has puppy breath and a snuggly soft coat, it means that I'm here, doing potty training, and chasing this dang puppy around the house all the live long day.

Let me tell ya, to all the Mommy's out there - a puppy and small kids is tough.  I mean, they are his size...and he is a baby and all he wants to do is chew, jump and tackle them.  He wants to like their faces, eat their toys and to push them down.  Que a lot of yelling, screeching and "Mommy put him in his cage".  I'm not going to lie, it's a lot.  But, it is what we signed up for.  Part of the reason we got a puppy now was because I wanted the kids to have this experience.  I wanted them to have a dog that was truly "theirs".  Copper will be central to a lot of their memories from childhood and I couldn't think of a better reason to bring one into the family.

Copper is our first boy dog.  Growing up we always had a Golden Retriever in the family. From Chloe to Grace to Lily and Ruby...he's the first boy in a long line of girls.  A lot of it was Ryan requesting to no longer be the only boy in the house...which, you gotta give the guy that!

Copper's name is special to me.  My grandpa's dog was named Copper and if you know me, you know that nostalgia plays a big role in my life.  Abby's middle name is Pearl, after my mom's mom and Hazel's middle name is Frances from Ryan's side of the family.  So, Copper seemed a fitting name.  Now is middle name, that's a funny story!  Abby says that Copper's middle name is "fish".  As in, Copper Fish McGrath.  Somewhere along the way she heard someone say that Copper was the name of the fox from the Fox and the Hound movie.  So, clearly, his middle name should be "Fish" right?  I know, it was a leap for me too...

Abby says "Copper was the fox in the movie, and foxes eat wild fish, so his name is Copper Fish McGrath".  HAHAHAH!  I love it...and I don't want to forget it someday, so I'm writing it here so we never forget the origins of his very strange middle name.

Welcome to the family, little guy.  Get ready for a the wild roller coaster that is life with the McGrath's.  We do all the things, so get ready for lots of car rides, outdoor adventures and wood pile management.  You're kinda stuck with us at this point!