Monday, July 25, 2011

Auntie Karen...err I mean Auntie Kristi's Visit...

 Auntie Kristi visited us this past weekend and we could not have had a more enjoyable time!  She got in late Thursday night after enduring a delayed flight AND a delayed airport pick up (it was as though carmaggedon occurred Thursday night, not over the weekend). 

Peter and Matthew were delighted to see Auntie Karen when they woke up Friday morning. Huh? For the first day, Peter pretty much referred to Kristi as Auntie Karen. He finally got it! But it was kind of funny. At least I thought it was funny.  

Peter swindled Kristi into several rounds of Peek a boo Friday morning and it was apparent rather quickly that even though he couldn't get her name right, he loved spending time with his Auntie. He pretty much had to know her where abouts the entire weekend. "Where's Auntie Kristi?" was quite the catch phrase.

This below picture hardly captures the fun that was had by all over the weekend. I only post it because some people have told me they don't believe Matthew ever gets upset. He does. :( This was taken this morning (Monday) and they were pretty exhausted and cranky from all the partying we did, and we had just informed them that Auntie Kristi would be going home.....a recipe for grumpy faces.  

Don't go home Auntie Kristi!!!

Friday morning we headed to Heritage Park in Cerritos to meet some old friends. It was great to see everyone and get caught up. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, so you will just have believe me. 

Saturday was the perfect beach day. We spent some time building sand castles, wading in the ocean, and relaxing. 

Mike stepped on a large piece of glass while he was constructing sand castles, tunnels, and walls. It was gigantic! I was so thankful the boys did not step on it. He got a slight cut, it could have been a lot worse.

Fast Food joints were calling our name, so we left the beach early and went to McDonald's and In n Out because we couldn't agree on which fries were better. I find this humorous considering where we dined for dinner.....

Kristi has a pretty healthy obsession with Gordon Ramsay and mentioned to me that she wanted to go to his restaurant in Hollywood during her next visit.Kristi is probably one of the most amazing ladies I know, and she never really admits to wanting to do stuff like this, so I knew that we had to go to this restaurant! 

You might be surprised to learn that I myself do not have a healthy obsession with Gordon Ramsay and have maybe seen a portion of a Hell's Kitchen episode. I do love to cook and I love food, so I knew that I would enjoy our culinary experience--even if I didn't have the complete context of Ramsay cooking. 

There are 3 restaurants at the hotel: Gordon Ramsay at the London, Rooftop Dining, and the Boxwood Cafe. The Rooftop Dining didn't seem to have a name so that is what I am calling it. :) We ate at the Gordon Ramsay at the London, but we did sneak upstairs to get a glimpse of the view from the rooftop restaurant. 

As an aside, they have fake grass all over the restaurant on the roof and it does not look nearly as good as ours. :) I would have taken a picture but I think I might have looked tacky.

the view from the rooftop restaurant

The restaurant had pre-fixed meals so between the 3 of us, we got 2 3-course meals and 1 5-course meal so that we could enjoy all of the many foods!

I didn't get a picture of our starters, but I have to say my favorite was the Foie Gras with Cherry Brioche and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. I know. It sounds weird. But it was awesome. It was a great combo of savory and sweet.

Kristi enjoying her dinner

We also got a Lobster Risotto and an Octopus Risotto. Apparently, Gordon is all about the Risottos, so we thought it best to order those. They did not disappoint! I loved both of them.
quail eggs and scallops

veal loin and shrimp

chautebriand with potato puree
So, since Kristi was a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay, she was informing us of all the important facts about Mr. Ramsay. She mentioned that Gordon is very particular about the quality of the plates that restaurants use. He gets really angry on Hell's Kitchen when people serve customers with chipped plates. Which is what makes this picture all the more entertaining.

Kristi was aghast to see that her entree was served on a chipped plate. We are not so full of ourselves, so we didn't make a complaint. Speaking of full of ourselves, it took us about 20 minutes to figure out what to order. I thought that was a long time, so I asked the waiter if we had set a record or something. He informed me that some people take up to 2 hours to decide what they want to order. Crazy! That is so un LA! Everyone is always in a rush. Apparently Ramsay's dining experience causes people to stop and smell the roses.

I will have a chip with my Quail Eggs....

For dessert, we had an apple tartan (something else Gordon is known for) and a chocolate cylinder filled with bananas, peanuts, and other goodness. On the side was a scoop of peanut butter ice cream. Given that PB is one of my major food groups, the ice cream was in.cred.ible. 

chocolate cylinder with peanut butter ice cream

apple tartan with vanilla bean ice cream
You know you have changed too many diapers AND that your photography skills blow when you look at the above picture and all you can think of is your kids.

Needless to say, we scoured all the plates....

We asked the waiter to take our picture and he apparently thought this was a good shot.

He also brought us the wrong bill. Something else Mr. Ramsay would frown upon. We were honest and told him it belonged to someone else.

After we got outside, we attempted another picture....

Throughout the hotel, there were these statue dogs. They looked pretty real. I know they are English bulldogs. And the hotel is called the London. But it was kind of weird.

Sunday we went to church and spent the evening with friends and viewing a cinema classic.

All in all, we had a great visit with Auntie Kristi and can't wait for her to return. Hopefully next time with the rest of the fam!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer 2011

We've really been enjoying the summer. Work usually slows down for me which makes things a little easier and more calm around here. Work has been nice, but we definitely stepped it up with activities, etc. Last week we had people over every night!

 Legos have been a huge thing around here. We ended up using them as motivation for potty training. Peter built this himself!

Matthew is actually quite good with them too. Look at the concentration!
 We kicked the summer off by installing artificial grass. My parents were gracious enough to help us afford it.
It has been a huge blessing! We love to spend time in our backyard now!
 Karen, Anna, and the kids came down for a visit while David was in Canada.
Peter and Nana hanging out

guy time

while we were at the beach, Matthew sat in this chair 90% of the time eating his fishies
 While the D Greggs were visiting, we went to the beach. When we arrived, Peter duly noted that there were flies EVERYWHERE. It was pretty gross and Peter freaked out big time. I guess all the kelp laying on the shore attracted the flies.

At one point, I looked over at the lifeguard tower and a layer of flies were just hovering underneath. Nastiness. Thankfully, they went away somewhat and we were able to enjoy ourselves.
burying Sophia

looking for flies?

Hanging with Hannah

Uncle Mike brought out the adult legos and Peter and Matthew were amazed!
taking family pictures is quite the process these days....

 We celebrated Father's Day with my family at Terranea one evening. It was really beautiful. I love it there!

Even though it is the middle of the summer, the boys like to put on their Halloween costumes from time to time.
It's a jungle out there

 Now that we have the backyard looking good, we like to play with our water table and kiddie pool. When the temperature is just right, we feast on Popsicles. Peter loves them, Matthew seems to keep getting brain freezes and gets a little frustrated. Either way, it is a fun time.
another attempt at a family photo
We had a really fun 4th of July. We went to the local city hall and enjoyed pony rides, funnel cake, and bouncy houses. 
Matthew surprised us by wanting to ride a pony. He lasted about 3 minutes.

Peter's pony's name was Jill. I think I was too nervous about Matthew to notice the name of his pony.

we will get a good one someday....
Matthew loves to pick oranges at Omi's house. Everytime we walk down the stairs to their front door, he whispers in my ear, "oranges, oranges, oranges."

One evening we had dinner with friends at the Beachcomber in Newport Beach. It was so beautiful down there. The food was great too! 

This was one of the weirdest visits to the beach I have ever had. We got there at 11 and it was drizzling. It was our last trip to the beach with the Spears, so I think Kelly and I were pretty determined to not back down.
shivering on the beach

 Then for 1 hour, and I really mean 1 HOUR, this guy played his flute. He may have attempted a variation of Hot Cross Buns at some point. We weren't sure. Here is a little sampling.

Matthew has fallen in love with the ocean. He loves to "catch" some waves. 
Around noon, the sun came out and then dolphins appeared. They were jumping out of the water and doing flips in the air. It was incredible. They were almost surfing the waves. One of our friends said the dolphins were saying goodbye to Kelly. I think she was right. :)

I'm glad the summer is not over yet, we still have so much more fun to have. This weekend Auntie Kristi is visiting and in August my sister and boyfriend will be visiting from the land of Oz. It will all be so much fun! 

Good Friends are a Blessing....

It is special when the Lord puts people in your life that you are blessed by. Such is the case with the Spear Family. We've been blessed by their friendship for the past 3 years and we're looking forward to the future, but sad that it has to be from a distance. We'll miss you guys!

Here is a little sampling of all our fun times:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prosciutto and Melon Pasta Salad

sooooo yummmy! 
I love to make pasta salads during the summer and last year I found this recipe in Cooking Light's August issue.

Farfalle pasta with a white wine vinaigrette, tossed with my favorite favorite favorite prosciutto, some melon, mint leaves (?). and arugula. And cap it off with some parmesan reggiano...So good! The mint actually really ties it all together. I have to confess that I made this recently and Mike and I ate the whole thing (and it serves 4).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Potty Training....1, 2, 3???

Watching you tube videos while waiting for pee pee and poo poo

We've been busy potty training around here. I have to apologize in advance because I wrote most of this for my own future reference. Sorry if it is boring or overly informative.

I have to say that I was pretty freaked out about potty training. Everyone I talked to, every website I visited made it sound like potty training was a very hard, difficult, chinese water torture kind of experience.  So I prepared myself for the worst.

I envisioned the lows and remembered Peter's ability to be like this:


And then I would remind myself that most of the time he is more like this:

And I decided it couldn't be THAT bad, could it?

I did my internet research and settled on a book by the Ezzos, Potty Training 123. I relied on the Ezzo wisdom a lot for Babywise, so I figured they probably knew what they were talking about for Potty Training as well.

The difficult mental block for me was rewarding behavior with tangible things. I have spent the last 3 years trying to not parent my children by behavior modification, but parenting the heart. What would it be like to reward him with a prize for going to the bathroom? Would he expect to get rewards in other facets of his life?

Fortunately, 3 year olds don't have these deep, analytical thoughts, so this was not a problem.

I discovered that potty training is just as much about training the parents as it is the child. For 3 years I coasted--changing diapers when I wanted to, didn't really pay attention completely to the timing of his bowel movements, and just enjoyed the freedom of being able to go places without having to worry about where a toilet was.

Honestly, if they made diapers for 6 year olds, I often thought I would hang on till then. But...they do cost a lot of money. And now that we are a little further into the whole thing, I have to say it is very nice to only have to change 1 child's poopy diapers.

Anyways, I read the Ezzo's book and began to mentally prepare for the process. I had already put the potty seat out in view for about a month--I wanted Peter to get used to it--but didn't want to push it.

A few days after I had skimmed the Ezzo's book, Peter AMAZED me. One Monday evening before bed, he told me he wanted to sit on his potty seat. He had done this many times before with no results. I wasn't really expecting any--I had just want him to experience sitting on the potty. Anyways, I had him sit down on the potty seat and then left him and Matthew to hang out.

Minutes later, I hear him say, "Mommy!! Mommmmeeeeeee!!! I did a POO POO in the POTTEEEE". Whaaaaa? Surely, he could not be serious. I thought he was just making it up. But sure enough, when I got into the bathroom there was no doubt! I made a big deal about it and jumped up and down and screamed and gave him a lot of hugs. This is not my normal behavior so I am sure he thought I had lost my brain. But I think he also thought it was pretty cool to see Mommy go crazy over poo.

We called Omi and Gramps, one set of cousins (the others were traveling, otherwise they would have been contacted as well), and Nana. Peter insisted on talking to each of the 3 cousins. Josh (11) cracked me up because he was definitely the most enthusiastic responder.

The "random poop" incident pretty much forced me to cancel my plans for the week and focus on potty training. It caught me so off guard, it was quite crazy. I had to go out and buy a bigger potty seat because the one we had was not doing the job. Peter weighs 45 lbs now! I found something that had a bigger "bowl".

The book suggests a whole process of introducing a bear or a doll to the child and using the bear as a prop for what the child will be doing. It is pretty crazy when you think about having to teach someone how to use the bathroom facilities. There are so many different things to remember!

Anyway, we got Mr. Bear and put on some Rex/Toy Story underpants. The night before we started potty training, I introduced Peter to Mr. Bear and explained that the next day we would be learning how to use the potty. I explained that he would be getting treats like Chocolate Milk, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, and "Special Juice" (Capri Sun) all day. He was super excited to begin the process when he was falling asleep. It was really sweet. He wanted to sleep with Mr. Bear. Very funny because Mr. Bear had been floating around our house for months and with the Rex/Toy Story underpants on he suddenly appeared to be "new." Weeks later, I let Peter wear the Rex underpants and Peter said, "oh, Mr. Bear is going to be so sad." I tried hard not to laugh.

So, we began potty training on a Wednesday. I wanted to start far enough from Sunday--we HAVE to go to church--so that hopefully by Sunday he would be comfortable enough that going to potty at church would not be an ordeal. I was hoping that the stretch from Wednesday to Sunday would be enough. I also had to take my work schedule into consideration.

As previously stated, he was SO excited to begin when he woke up that morning. He wanted to eat breakfast immediately so that he could start. I began loading him up on chocolate milk around 745. One of the things that I had read was that it takes longer for milk to go through your system than it does juice. If I had to do it over I would not have used chocolate milk. I would have just bought a lot of fun yummy juices and gotten him to drink those.

The book is really into rewarding the child for staying dry and clean, instead for using the potty. Initially, I think this is a great tactic. It gives you something to reward the child for doing and they feel proud of their accomplishment of staying dry and clean. The book is also great because it gives you a checklist of what to look for in your child to determine if they are ready to begin potty training. A lot of it is developmental. And I like how they explain that this is not a moral issue. The authors emphasized that there is "no right way to learn how to use the potty." Kind of weird coming from people that are so passionate about scheduling babies...but whatever. It was a good book.

I kept asking Peter if he was dry and clean--probably a little too often--and kept giving him Jelly Beans as a reward. By 9am, he was tired of getting rewards for staying dry and clean and didn't want them anymore.

I was discouraged. It felt like he was never going to go pee.

By 10am, there was still no pee. He spent some time in the office watching some you tube videos with our office manager....I had read that sometimes children get into what they are doing and just forget to stop and use the of course, he had an accident and went pee in the office. Oops.

I was really discouraged at that point and was ready to give up. I thought maybe Peter was just not ready. I told him to come into the bedroom and we were just going to put a diaper back on. He got really sad and said he didn't want to, he wanted to keep his underpants on.

So we kept them on. And about 10 minutes later, he told me he needed to go pee. We went to the potty and he did everything great! We decided to teach him to sit and pee rather than stand. It is working out well so far. I think Matthew might be another story. He already likes to stand up in the bathtub and pee. He's so weird sometimes. :)

After that first time, things kind of just started snowballing. He kept telling me that he had to go pee. Eventually, the jelly beans were not that inspiring to him, so I had to change it with ice cream. Then the ice cream got replaced with legos. One of the points the book makes is that parents often err because they are not finding the thing that motivates their children enough. I definitely took that into consideration and tried to find things that would keep the excitement going.

We also used a potty chart the first couple of days just to add to the excitement. He liked putting stickers on there each time he used the potty. 

Peter's Potty Chart
Potty training was training for me too in that I had to start thinking about when was the last time he drank fluids, when was the last time he peed, etc. From what I can tell, it takes him about 2 hours to process liquids--sometimes even more. And he seems to have figured out how to hold it. We have gone to the beach several times without incident....

Not to get too graphic, but he was holding the poop in I think at the beginning of potty training. This created a really lame situation. He was afraid to go poop on the potty but because he was witholding the poops ended up being really big. Thankfully I already had Matthew on Miralax for some other issues, so I knew to just give Peter a teaspoon. He is still on it now....not sure when I will stop giving it to him.

Also not sure when to stop giving him the rewards. I am hoping I will just sense when he has become more and more comfortable using the potty and slowly wean him off the rewards, which should be really soon.

And nope, he didn't expect to get treats for other aspects of his life. :)

One of the hardest things is getting him to use the potty before we go somewhere. I don't want using the potty to be a discipline issue, so I do struggle with what to do when I ask him to sit on the potty and he doesn't want to. At this point I have just decided that if he says he doesn't have to go, I need to trust him.

So that's it. I was exhausted after the first day was over. It was SO mentally draining and stressful the first day not knowing what to expect AND not really knowing when he was going to pee. I knew I wasn't alone when I watched my mom and Mike interact with the whole process. It is REALLY unnerving in the beginning. Kind of like taking the training wheels off a bike or something.

I remember heading into the weekend thinking, "we have 1 child that is no longer wearing diapers." So weeirrrrdd!! I think it was mainly a lot for me to mentally process because I had not planned to potty train that week. And nope, we didn't train him for the nighttime stuff yet. That felt like too much.

Glad to pretty much have this milestone behind us (ha pun intended).