Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dutch's New Playground

We have a large side yard separate from our backyard where the pool is, and we never have any reason to use it.  The dogs go out there to handle their business and bark at people or cars going by. That was the extent of its use.  Earlier this year we put down new sod in it because one portion of it would become a muddy pit after each rain.  During our massive plumbing repairs (post still forthcoming), a huge portion of the yard was disrupted and left in shambles.  The workers had to dig trenches and place the uprooted dirt on other areas of the yard, so when it was all said and done, we were left with a dirt yard.  We weren't too keen on paying to re-sod a yard we had just done that to a few months prior, so we figured it would be a good time to research play sets.  I'd much rather cover the yard with something useful than just put down more grass. The other reason for wanting a play set was so that Dutch would have a great outdoor activity to participate in, while I'm dealing with a newborn in a couple months.  I want him to get out and be active, but getting to a nearby playground will be more of a hassle with two in tow.

We honestly didn't do much research on where to purchase the play set from, mainly because I'm big and pregnant and don't have the luxury any more of taking my time!  We visited the Beyond Backyards location in Carrollton and found a model that we liked.  We also found out they did some great barriers, filled with mulch, to section off the area where the play set would go.  That definitely appealed to us since we didn't want our dirt yard to be the base of the set. We selected our options and paid for everything on 10.04 and the unit was installed on 10.13. I love not having to wait very long for something like this!  We were all excited about it.

It took the guys about 4 hours to complete everything, which is impressive considering the size of the structure and the square footage they had to fill with mulch. The area it takes up is 24' x 36'.  Here's a couple of pics during their installation:

And here's the fully finished product:

I absolutely love it!  It's got three swings, a trapeze, a tire swing, a rock-climbing wall, three types of ladders, a slide, and binoculars and a ship's wheel in the tower.  We invited a couple of Dutch's cousins over to give it a test run.

We had talked about it a little bit with Dutch ahead of time, but I was wanting it to be a surprise, so I didn't tell him what day it would be installed.  I wanted to walk him out to the yard and see his reaction for the first time, but the structure is so tall, that he could see it as we drove by the fence!  I heard him from the backseat ask, "Is that my new playground??"  I still managed to video his reaction as he got to see it up close and personal:

I love making this kid happy!

Project costs:
Play structure: $3,299
Groundcover: $3,240
Delivery/installation/tax: $863
Total: $7,402

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chicago Trip 2014 - Part Two

Once Meezy joined us at the hotel, we decided to get out and do some sight-seeing.  We started by going to Lincoln Square.  We thought it would be a cool place to walk around and see lots of shops and restaurants.  It was disappointing - not as large of an area as we had hoped for and no restaurants that looked appealing to us.  It did, however, have a neat toy store there (Timeless Toys) that Dutch had fun visiting.  After we finished there, we headed over to Navy Pier.  We found a restaurant with outside seating (Harry Caray's Tavern) so that we could enjoy the cool weather and check out the happenings on the water.  Dinner went well and we walked along the pier afterward and visited a couple of shops.  By this point, we were all tired, so we headed back to our hotel.

On Saturday, we were excited to meet up with my nephew, Mark, who is in training outside of Chicago.  We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo so we could catch up and Dutch could enjoy the animals. The zoo is awesome because it's free, open year-round, and you just walk right in at any entrance. Towards the end of our visit, it started raining, so we sought shelter in a cafe at the zoo.  A couple of Mark's classmates met us there and we had a nice, relaxing lunch.  Since it was still raining after lunch, we decided to part ways for a bit so Dutch could nap back at the hotel.  We had really wanted to do an afternoon cruise out of the harbor, but the weather prevented that.

After nap time, we met back up with Mark for dinner.  He took us to a cool area in the West Side where there were lots of fun restaurants.  It was busy since it was Saturday night, but we got seated quickly at The Little Goat.  The food was great and the company was even better! We had such a great time hearing about Mark's experiences and were reminded how much we miss hanging out with him.  As it was getting late and we had a travel day the next day, we decided to call it a night.  We dropped Mark off with friends and headed back to our hotel.

While we didn't get to do as much sight-seeing as we had wanted to because of the weather, we still had a great time together as a family.  I'm so glad we went on this trip and that Dutch got the experience of flying for the first time.  Hopefully there will be lots more traveling in our future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chicago Trip 2014 - Part One

Meezy has to travel to Chicago every couple of months for work, but he never gets to do any tourist things while he's there, since his trips are so short and he's only there during the work week.  Since I am about to be put on travel restriction due to my pregnancy, I decided that Dutch and I should meet Meezy in Chicago on a Friday and we all stay there until Sunday. Dutch had never been on a plane, so I was a little worried about traveling alone with him for the first time, but I figured it needed to happen eventually.

On the morning of our departure, I checked the traffic at about 7am, and everything looked good. Our flight was at 9:30am, so I planned on leaving the house around 7:45am, getting to the airport no later than 8:15am, parking very close to the terminal, and then having 45 minutes to an hour to get through security.  I had already checked us in and qualified for fast bag drop, so I didn't expect any delays at the ticket counter.  I knew that was a tight timeline, but I really didn't want to get to the airport too early and have Dutch already be bored with the situation while we waited to get on the plane.

Of course Dutch was in a grumpy mood that morning, since I was getting him up earlier than normal, and the process to get him ready took longer than usual.  We didn't get out the door until about 7:55. I checked traffic again as I walked out the door, and to my horror, the highway to get to the airport was shown to be at a standstill.  Oh, crap.  If I was going to take a detour, I needed to have left already.  I stayed on the service road as much as possible and went a little out of the way, and ended up arriving at the airport just after 8:30.  The parking garage closest to our gate was undergoing construction, so there was no parking available at any of the lower levels.  I had to drive all the way to the top of the parking garage, in the uncovered area.  From there, I had to maneuver down four flights of stairs with a 40lb bag, a stroller hoisted over my back, two carry-ons, and a 2.5 year old in my arms.  Did I mention I was 7 months pregnant at the time?  It was no easy task.

By the time I got to the ticket counter area and checked in at the fast bag drop kiosk, it was 8:47am. That was past the 45 minute cutoff for luggage, so it told me I couldn't use the fast bag drop option anymore.  Doh!  I went to the ticket counter, which luckily wasn't busy, and the clerk sternly said, "You need to hurry."  She expressed concern that I wasn't going to make it to the gate in time, so she graciously escorted us to the front of the security line (where they check your ID).  From there, we still had to wait in a decently long line to go through the metal detectors.  I still had the stroller, two carry-ons, and Dutch, to manage.  When I approached the metal detector while holding Dutch, I asked if we could walk through together and the agent told me we could, but that I'd have to submit to a body search afterwards.  Ugh.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  I set Dutch down and walked through and then turned around to coax him through.  He wasn't having it.  He started crying and wouldn't come to me.  I pleaded with him and told him we'd miss our plane, but he was too scared to move.  I finally decided to just use the "Okay, I'm leaving" trick and start walking away, and that worked.  I scooped him up and grabbed all our belongings.  I started to feel like we were in the clear, until I saw how far away our gate was.  I had to hustle through a couple long hallways, up an escalator, through another corridor, get on a moving walkway, then down an escalator.  I couldn't put Dutch in the stroller for any of that because I needed to move quickly and didn't have time to keep taking him in and out of it to maneuver the escalators.  When we finally got to the gate, there were just a couple people left to board.  I got the counter agent to check his stroller and we got on the plane.  I haven't been that exhausted in a while.  I was sweating and breathing heavily. Since my original plan involved a few minutes in the gate area before boarding, I had planned to use the bathroom and get Dutch some water.  Well, neither of those things happened.

I had very low hopes for the flight at this point.  I knew I'd need to use the bathroom before too long and that Dutch would be thirsty.  Since the process was so rushed, I thought Dutch might be a little stressed for the actual flight.  I was regretting the whole trip already!

In a miraculous turn of events, Dutch was pretty much THE BEST KID EVER on the flight.  He never got upset, never got whiny, never seemed bothered with anything that was going on.  I had brought plenty of toys and snacks, so he was quite content.  When I needed to get up and use the bathroom, I set him up on the Ipad so that he would barely notice I was gone!  It worked well.  The passenger next to me asked how old he was and commented about how great he was being.  I was so relieved.  His favorite part of the flight was the descent, because there was a little bit of turbulence. He thought it being "bumpy" was really cool.  He even squealed a little bit from delight and that got a few laughs out of our neighbors.

After we landed and I gathered all our belongings, there was a little more disheveled maneuvering to get us to the rental car counter.  I didn't realize they weren't located at the actual airport, so we had to catch a shuttle to an off-site location.  I was so ready to just put all of our bags and the stroller down! Once we got to our car, I finally got to exhale.  It took me a while to get the rental car seat installed, but at least I wasn't carrying heavy bags or a toddler while doing that.  Dutch and I then drove to our hotel downtown, which had its own set of parking challenges, but finally got checked in.  We were able to relax in our room for a little bit and order a late lunch while we waited for Meezy to finish his work day.        

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

It's amazing to watch how much your kid starts to better comprehend things, and even more fun when they can use their vocabulary. Our kiddo is quite the talker and I thought I'd share some of the things he has said over the past year. Sometimes he impresses me, sometimes he shocks me, and sometimes he just plain makes me laugh.  It's really just neat to see his progression.

20 months
- As his punishment ended, he said, "bye, bye timeout."

21 months
- Said, "all done, vacuum" when he saw it, because he hates when I vacuum.
- When the dogs finished their business outside, he said, "Come on, guys!" and beckoned towards them with his hand.

22 months
- When I held a drink up for him so he could drink through a straw, he got mad and wanted to do it himself. He motioned with his hands and said, "set right here" so I would put it down and he could pick it up himself.
- Says, "excuse me" when you're in his way.

23 months
- He saw me in my fuzzy robe and didn't like it and said, "take that shirt off."
- Told Meezy to "hush" a few times.
- To a boy at daycare, he said, "stop pushing!"
- I pulled out one of his art projects and he said, "I did that."
- When he woke up with a full diaper, he said, "Too much water."
- Saw Meezy open the messages app on his phone and said, "no texting, Dada."

24 months
- Meezy had a Conan clip playing on Youtube and he exclaimed, "It's Conan!"
- Tells me sometimes, "don't sing, mommy."
- Wanted to watch Thomas and said, "Remote! Where are you?"
- Will see Meezy and say, "How are you, dada?"
- When I was leaning off the bed to reach for something, he said, "Be careful."

25 months
- Got in the car and said, "Go see Opa.  Go see Oma too."
- When he's grumpy in the morning he says, "Don't touch Dutchie."
- Saw me change a lightbulb and said, "Mommy, that's awesome!  You did that!"
- Saw me yawn and said, "You're tired."

26 months
- I had the jelly and bread out and he asked, "Where's the peanut butter?"
- He woke up crying one morning, "I need ice cream! I need donuts!"
- Got water on his pants and said, "I hurt my pants."
- When he's hungry he says, "I want to pick a snack."

27 months
- Our dog peed on the floor and he said, "That's not nice, Pitties (her nickname). I go get a towel. I gotta clean it up."
- Likes to ask us, "Who's making that noise?"
- I spilled water on him and he said, "It's okay. It was an accident."

28 months
- Says, "I'm just being shy."
- When I reprimanded him, he went to Meezy and said, "Mom talked to me LIKE THAT."
- I told him Meezy was working and he said, "Daddy's not working; he's playing poker with friends."
- I was wearing a sparkly shirt and he pointed to it and said, "I want to wear that."

29 months
- When we discuss whose turn it is to put him to bed, he says, "I'ts mommy's turn. It's daddy's turn tomorrow."
- When we walked outside, he said, "Hey, it rained today. The table is wet. The chair is wet."
- When I let him sleep in my bed when Meezy was out of town, he said, "My daddy's not here.  I love my daddy."
- When reading a book to him, he said, "You missed a page."

30 months
- Says, "Don't see me, mommy" when he's pooping.
- When at the car wash and the machine went from back to front of our car, he said, "Whoa, we going backwards!"
- When he heard a classmate crying, he said, "I cheer her up in a minute."
- Saw a book he hadn't seen in a while and said, "Oh, I forgot this."
- After he cried and there was a tear on his cheek, he said, "I have a cry on my cheek. Cry went in my mouth."
- When Meezy and him were playing together and Meezy wanted to do the game a certain way, Dutch got exasperated and said, "I'm trying to do this, butthole."

31 months
- Was playing with his cars and said, "Get outta here! It's an emergency!"
- Told me, "Don't play with me. Go watch TV. I'm gonna close my eyes."
- When his nose is running he says, "My nose is running out."
- Told me, "I'm so excited to see you!"
- When Meezy sneaks into his room in the mornings so he can lay next to him and then Dutch wakes up, he asks, "You sleep in my bed, Daddy?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yep, Still Pregnant

I feel a little bad that I'm 26 weeks into this pregnancy and I've barely written about it at all. Honestly, though, I've barely written about anything over the past few months.  My life has been one stressful day after the next.  We have had repair contractors at our house every single week for as long as I can remember.  We've been dealing with plumbing issues since April and HVAC issues since July.  When our plumbing repairs are finally resolved, there will most certainly be a post about it. They have disrupted our lives tremendously and are costing us a fortune.  But, enough about that for now.  Let's do a little catch-up.

This pregnancy has been quite different from my pregnancy with Dutch.  I started out with a ridiculous appetite, I think because I was having really bad "morning" sickness.  Putting food in my stomach helped relieve some of the discomfort, but that meant I ate way too much!  I gained weight quickly and felt like my belly popped out immediately.  Luckily my doctor prescribed something that really helped with the sickness, which in turn decreased my food intake.  I felt dizzier and clumsier more often in this pregnancy than before.  I had the same insomnia and horrible heartburn/reflux that I remembered from last time, but they seemed to arrive much earlier in this pregnancy.  My insomnia is getting better, but the reflux is a daily occurrence.  I often feel like I can't quench my thirst throughout the day.  I will go to the fridge multiple times and attempt to drink milk, tea, water - anything because I feel so thirsty.  That does mean I end up drinking tons of water every day, though, so it's not so bad.  I can't say I "crave" anything - didn't during the other pregnancy either - but I do find myself wishing for candy every now and then.  It's not like a "I have to have this right now" feeling, but more of a "it would be nice if there were skittles in front of me right now" feeling.

Other symptoms include feeling fatigued quickly and going to the bathroom constantly. I remember the excessive bathroom breaks last time around, but again, I feel like that started later in the pregnancy.  I was already suffering this time at 19 weeks.  It's ridiculous.  I'm up at least 2 times a night to pee, and a zillion times during the day. I will literally go to the bathroom, go sit back down at my computer, and five minutes later feel like I could pee again. The worst is when I get the feeling of needing to pee and then can't remember if I just went or not. Man, pregnancy brain is sweet. I'm experiencing some sciatica, but it hasn't been too horrible so far. For about a week at a time, I will get this really sharp pain where my pelvis and spine meet, after I've taken a few steps.  Then it'll be gone the next week.  A couple weeks later, it will resurface.  I'm not getting the shooting pain down my legs or the numbness or tingling I experienced previously from the herniated disk, so I'm hopeful this pain really is just related to the pregnancy.  I was running for the first few weeks of this pregnancy, so I'm optimistic I can get back to that (pain-free) after this pregnancy.

Lastly, my weight.  I know women don't like to talk about this, but let's get serious.  It's on most of our minds.  I'm not embarrassed to say I struggle with my weight and I wish I was 15 pounds lighter before getting pregnant again. Being a mom and having back problems that restricted my exercise meant I didn't get into the shape I wanted to, though. I just see that as motivation to try harder after the second baby. I'm 5'7 and my starting weight was 148.5lbs at 4 weeks pregnant.  That looked like this:

What's funny is that I felt at the time that I needed to lose weight, but I look at that picture now and go, "Damn, I was skinny!"  Lol.  Here's a picture from 12 weeks:

You can definitely see the changes that took place on my front side during those 8 weeks. I forgot to weigh myself and write it down, but I had probably gained 7-10 pounds at this point. Here's what I looked like at 20 weeks:

I can admit that I don't look too big, but unfortunately the numbers on the scale told a different story. By 20 weeks, I was up to 167lbs, which meant a total weight gain of 18.5lbs at that point. Considering some people have gained just a third of that at the same point in their pregnancy, you can see how disconcerting that can be.  I haven't taken my 26 week picture yet, so here's the one from last week:

It is what it is!  I'm definitely getting larger and feeling more uncomfortable. My weight is around 174.5lbs now, which means 26 pounds gained.  I'm not a petite person, and I make large babies, so this weight gain was to be expected.  But, I'm hopeful I can keep it under control and not gain more than 40lbs total.  I gained at least 45lbs with Dutch, probably closer to 50.  I was able to get it all off in about 5 months' time, but if I can keep my weight gain to 40lbs or less this time, maybe it'll be a little easier!  I'm not gonna lie, though, making big babies is not so bad. I can feel this baby move constantly, very clearly.  I like that he's large enough that I can really feel all of his movements.  It's a nice reminder throughout the day of what the bigger picture is in all of this.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mo Ranch 2014

Every couple years, my Dad's side of the family gets together for a family reunion at Mo Ranch in Hunt, TX. It's actually not too hard to coordinate, because his side of the family is (unfortunately) quite small.  My Dad is the only remaining living member of the original family of 5 that emigrated here from Holland many, many years ago.  One of his brothers had 3 sons before he passed away, so those cousins and their families, and my dad's three daughters and our families, get together with my parents for a fun weekend.  It's a very laid-back place, where you get to roam around and choose from an array of activities like fishing, swimming, sand volleyball, tennis, hiking, riding the rapids, or going down the famous slide.  The funny part about this year is that Mo Ranch is very slowly renovating their rooms, and Meezy and I happened to get one of the only already renovated rooms! Nobody else in our group got one, yet we paid the same price.  Lol!

It's so nice for all the cousins to be together in one place at the same time, because we're usually spread out across Texas in different cities.  Our kids have an awesome time together too!

Jill, Joanna, Janet, Nick, John, Charles

The cousins and their spouses

All our kids!

We typically eat our meals in their main cafeteria, but on Saturday nights, they always do a BBQ by the river.

Doesn't matter how pregnant I am, you know I'm not going to pass up tennis and sand volleyball.

Dutch was hesitant about the long catwalk suspended high above the road.  He cracked me up with his timidity.  It was going to be quite a long journey if we hadn't intervened!


In my opinion, the coolest thing about Mo Ranch is the slide that terminates into the river.  Here's Meezy going down the slide:

Now imagine it without the protective guards along the side of it.  When I was growing up, that's what it looked like!  Those extra guards are a fairly recent addition.  I rode it when it was way more terrifying!

Since we go every two years, it's fun to see the changes taking place in our family between trips.  Here's Dutch and I two years ago, and again this year:

Bye, Mo Ranch.  We'll see you again in two years when we are a family of four!

Pensacola Beach Trip 2014

With baby #2 making his arrival later this year, Meezy and I decided we needed to try and get a vacation in while we still could.  We threw around the idea of having a getaway just for the two of us, but after talking with a cousin who told me about the great trips they take their toddler on and how fun it is to see him experience new things, we decided we should do a family trip.  Since Dutch had never gone to the beach, we started researching destinations with beautiful beaches.  Galveston was out, because I've been there many times, and I'm just not a fan of the beach there.  We thought about Destin, but the more I read about it, the more popular of a tourist destination it seemed to be becoming, and it is a little further away from us than other beaches.  We decided on Pensacola Beach.  The drive seemed manageable, online reviews were good, and we found an affordable hotel directly on the beach.

Dutch LOVED the beach.  From the first moment we took him out there, we knew we made the right decision.  He giggled like crazy when we took him in the water and would love to run away from the tide as it inched toward his feet.  He also thoroughly enjoyed playing in the sand and his favorite part seemed to be knocking down the sand castles we would build!

We tried to take a dolphin tour one day, but after heading out on the water for about 20 minutes, the captain decided to turn the boat around because the water was getting too choppy and dangerous.  It actually wasn't too bad, because we got a free boat ride and Dutch seemed to enjoy it.

One day we found a food truck/bar on the beach for lunch, and it was perfect for entertaining a 2 year old. After he ate, he enjoyed time in the sand while we got to leisurely enjoy our food!

Many of our afternoons looked like this:

We also threw in a visit to a children's museum and enjoyed some pool time:

All in all, it was a great experience for our family, and Dutch was a trooper on the extremely long car drives. I'm so glad we were able to take a few days out of our busy schedules to enjoy time together.