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Archive for April, 2013

Longtime readers and folks that know us know that we love to travel. In the almost 9 years that we’ve been together, we’ve been to Mexico twice, Hawaii three times, California twice, NYC and Florida a few times, a Mediterranean cruise, and a whole slew of other places in between. We absolutely LOVE to travel.

Our last trip before baby was a work trip for me in Ft. Lauderdale that we turned into a mini-babymoon. Since baby D entered our lives, we’ve been to visit my husband’s family nearly 9 hours away a few times, spent a couple of nights in Chicago for a work trip for me, and most recently, took our first flight and half work/half vacation trip to Philadelphia. We’re by no means “experts”, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve done our fair share of overnights in other places and have now even took to the skies with a wee one so I’d like to share a few of my observations along the way.

Obviously, traveling with a baby is WAY different than a quick weekend jaunt to a swanky hotel and fancy dinners with your sweetheart. But that doesn’t mean it has to be bad or unenjoyable.

1. You will sacrifice style. Now I am by no means a snob when it comes to restaurants or accommodations.  I’m perfectly happy staying in a Hampton Inn and eating a sub sandwich for dinner. But dining out on the town is more of a task because certain restaurants aren’t stroller accessible, or even if a place is baby friendly and spacious, it just seems more upscale and you don’t want to kill the mood with your talkative baby. Sometimes I just don’t give a damn and will go there anyway simply because I want to eat there, but most of the time I try to be considerate of others and would rather avoid getting glared at by people wondering why on earth I just brought a baby to a bar.

2. One drink minimum. Speaking of bars, those carefree nights when you would stumble back to your hotel room a little bit tipsy are no more. Not only is it not safe, but chances are you’re so doggone tired after the first drink, a second one would have you crashing face first on the table.

3. Leave the nightlife behind. As if one and two didn’t drive this point home already, your nightlife on vacation is virtually nonexistent. Babies go to bed early. So unless you want to have an over-tired, screaming baby on your hands, you’ll be back in your hotel room and in your pajamas by 7:30pm, watching crappy TV or paying an ungodly amount of money for a movie that came out on DVD a year ago.

Rockin' Friday night in the hotel room. Little jailbird.

Rockin’ Friday night in the hotel room. Little jailbird.

4. Mornings can be enjoyed (i.e. Brunch is a new favorite). Babies go to bed early but they also wake up early. So while all the rest of the world is still sleeping, you’re up and ready for the day and able to get a head start on the day’s activities. Since it still takes us awhile to get ready and get going, we’ve discovered the best way to enjoy our morning is to find a good breakfast or brunch place.

5. You have no choice but to s-l-o-w down. Sometimes when we go on a trip, we try to cram in too much activity so we rarely take time to just sit and enjoy our surroundings, like our over-priced hotel room. With a baby, sometimes you have no choice but to sit around and wait for the next baby-related activity because your entire schedule revolves around them – feeding times, nap times, pooping schedule, bath and bedtime routines, etc.

Funny faces.

Funny faces.

6. Sleep will most likely suck. Chalk it up to different surroundings but it should be expected that even if your baby is a rock star sleeper, there will be at least one night of very rough sleep. So don’t expect to be well-rested. And if you’re traveling in a different time zone, expect your schedule to be completely out of whack for at least half a day.

But despite ALL of these things, traveling with a baby still beats sitting around your house  surrounded by mounds of unfolded laundry, a stack of dirty dishes, and crappy TV. Because it’s moments like taking your child on his first carriage ride, or giving him a taste of his first donut at a MLB stadium that will stay with you forever. And just like anything else when it comes to a baby – it’s a lot of work, but it’s so very worth it.

I'm totally worth it.

I’m totally worth it.

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Philadelphia

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Liberty Bell

It’s been 13 years since my first and only trip to Philadelphia. I had just graduated high school and my patents took me on a road trip to the East Coast for what would likely be our last family vacation. (Not that we took many of these. Our only other vacation was to the Smokey Mountains and Dollywood. My parents. World travelers they are not.)

We only spent a night in Philly and all I remember is seeing the Liberty Bell and we have zero pics to prove it so this trip was basically my first time exploring the city of brotherly love.

First up on the “must-do” list was eat a real Philly cheesesteak sandwich. We walked a couple of blocks to Old City and found a no-frills place called Sonny’s. The weather was gorgeous so we grabbed a table outside and watched as people walked up and down the street and into the bar next door. After dinner, we walked down to a soda/ice cream parlor called The Franklin Fountain. You know it must be good when there’s a half hour wait and a line out the door. Just as I was ordering our chocolate shake (for him) and The Stock Market Crunch (for me), we caught a glimpse of lightening so we took our order to go and high-tailed it back to our hotel before the storms rolled in.

 

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Independence Hall

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The Franklin Fountain

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Inside the Franklin Fountain

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Ben Franklin’s grave

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First Carriage Ride

 

Saturday morning I had to be up at the crack of dawn, and considering the time change, let’s just say it was WAY too early to be up on a Saturday for me. But, this was my first speaking engagement and I was co-presenting with the global brand manager of my favorite chocolate company, so I wanted to make sure I brought my A game. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the least bit nervous of getting up and talking to a group of about 60 women. In fact, I rather enjoyed it and only wish we would’ve had a bit more time to get to all of the questions. Afterward, I hung around for a couple of more sessions and chatted with my panel partner, talking shop. I walked away feeling completely inspired by the conversations and even though I was there to GIVE knowledge, I think I came away gaining a lot more.

Saturday evening, after a quick meal at City Tavern where the decor and wait staff are all dressed in period clothing, it was game time. As luck would have it, our beloved Cardinals were in town playing the Phillies, so we bought the cheapest tix we could find and headed down to the new Citizen’s Bank Park. Now, I’m a HUGE Cardinals fan and would never say a bad thing about Busch Stadium. BUT. The Phillies stadium? It is spectacular. Mostly because of the variety of food and drink you can get there. Usually, I only require some non-stale tortilla chips and warm nacho cheese with a few jalapenos to watch a ballgame, but this place had just about anything you could want. My favorite treat had to be the warm, cinnamon and sugar donuts from Federal Donuts. Baby D loved them too. In fact, we loved them so much, we made sure to make a pitstop there before we left for the airport on Monday.

Anyway, back to the game. The night before, the Cardinals had lost so we were thrilled when the Cards won 5-0 and all of those runs were scored while we were at the stadium. The temps had dropped considerably from Friday so we weren’t able to last until the 7th inning stretch like we’d hoped, but it was still a great time and I’m glad we can cross another stadium off our list.

Sunday was still pretty chilly but we were determined to make the best of the crappy weather. We put our names in for brunch at a place called Farmicia, located in Old City. While we waited, we went on a hunt for coffee and found a quaint little place on a side street called Old City Coffee. (I highly recommend the almond flavored latte.) By the time we got back to the restaurant, our table was ready. Hubs had the breakfast quesadilla and I had the jumbo lump crab omelet, while baby D slept. (Thank goodness.)

 

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Let’s go Cards!

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Cardinals Win!

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Family portrait from our seats

 

We spent the rest of the day walking off our brunch. Between trips back to the hotel to feed/change the baby, we explored the city on foot. We took a (free) tour of Independence Hall, checked out the Liberty Bell visitor center, walked around Washington Square, ate cheesesteaks at Pat’s (we drove), took a carriage ride near Independence Hall, walked down South Street and over to Penn’s Landing. Eventually we made our way back to Old City again and had dinner/drinks at Pizzicato. (Calamari, Quattro Formaggi pizza and beers.) We spent the rest of the night watching the news about the Boston bomber capturing, along with the rest of the country.

Monday it was back to Old City Coffee for our caffeine fix, mailed some post cards from the very first US post office where Benjamin Franklin was head postmaster, took a short drive to Federal Donuts for those delicious warm, cinnamon sugar donuts, a quick stop at Target for some extra formula, and then a trip to IKEA because I simply can’t resist stopping anytime I see that big blue and yellow sign. Finally, the time came to return home.

So that was our trip to Philly. And though I wish the weather would’ve been a tad bit warmer, it was still a pretty incredible trip in a beautiful city with a ton of American history. And best of all, we saw everything we wanted to see while pushing around a baby stroller and a very active and verbal 10 month old.

 

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Brunch

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Gettin’ a history lesson at Independence Hall

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Ben Franklin pooped here

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Delicious coffee and a snoozing baby. Perfection.

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First USPS           

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2nd trip to IKEA

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We did it!! Baby D’s first plane ride!! While not a beach destination, we still had a blast in Philly. More to come on that soon, but first, let’s get to the travel nitty-gritty since this was a topic I agonized over for HOURS before we left. And because I like to be helpful, I’m going to write up a list of tips. These are all things that I wondered about or researched and have now experienced first hand.

1. Baby ID. As some folks commented on my last post and on Twitter, not every airline requires a boarding pass (and therefore ID) for your baby. BUT, some do. Southwest does, for example. And while they don’t specifically state this on their website, and they only say “birth certificate or passport?” when asking for ID, they will accept immunization records if that’s all you have. Also note, that you do not need originals. Copies of baby’s birth certificate or shot records will do just fine. Again, this varies by airline so check with your carrier.

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2. Car seats and strollers can be checked or gate checked – your choice. Either way, expect plenty of rough handling, so consider buying a travel cover if you’re worried about it. Or ask for a large plastic bag from the ticket counter. We have a travel system (car seat and stroller combo) that we ended up taking through security and gate checking. We did not buy a travel case for either item, so our stroller ended up with lots of deep scratches on the handle. Apparently strollers/car seats have even been broken during transit and the airlines won’t take responsibility. So maybe don’t take your $500 BOB stroller without a protective carrier.

3. You need about 8 arms to get through security check points smoothly. Between the stroller, the car seat, my laptop, purse, backpack, shoes, belt, liquids bag, and the baby – it’s a PROCESS. Fortunately my husband was with me to help (I took the baby while he put the car seat and stroller on the belt). Some airports have special security lines for families. I always thought those were the slow lines, but as it turns out, we were able to bypass a huge security line by being in the family line.

4. Look for family changing areas. Most airports have them. They’re separate from the general ladies room, and tend to be cleaner. But almost every single public changing table I’ve used has always been out of the protective covers, so bring your own if you’re worried about germs. Most airplanes have a changing table in at least one of the lavatories, but I have a hard enough time using the bathroom on those things by myself, let alone trying to change my child on a tiny table.

5. Families typically get priority boarding. On Southwest, this means family boarding comes right after the A boarding group. So even though we were ticketed as B45 and B46, we were able to board before B1, which meant we were able to get seated together, and had room for all of our carry-on stuff. Nice!
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6. For longer flights, put baby in overnight diapers. Even though our flight was only about 2 hours and 15 minutes, we ended up circling for an extra hour. And because of turbulence, it would’ve been more dangerous to try and change him in the airplane bathroom than to just wait it out. That’s a long time to go without a diaper change though, so be sure to use overnights so baby is as comfortable as possible.

7. Pack plenty of snacks in your carry on. Given the delays we had, our feeding schedule was totally messed up. Fortunately, we had plenty of puffs and mum-mums on hand to tide D over.

8. If possible, feed baby during takeoffs/landings. When I booked our plane tickets, I purposefully scheduled our flights so that feeding times occurred while we were in the air. This helped a lot with ear pain on the way up. On the way down, we made sure D had his paci, but he still tugged on his ears quite a bit. And since we’ve moved from breastmilk to formula, I bought those handy Enfamil travel packs and just purchased water for mixing once we were inside security.

9. Tablets are a lifesaver. Be prepared with a downloaded video or two. Though D slept most of the way to Philly, he was wide awake and raring to go on the flight home. We decided to splurge on the in-flight WiFi so we could play his Baby Einstein videos. (Nothing works on him like Baby Einstein. And Baby Einstein isn’t available for download – only streaming via YouTube.) That said, try not to depend on in-flight WiFi. It’s terribly slow and spotty and not worth the $8.

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10. Some people are jerks, but most are really nice and friendly. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about people being treated poorly because they were traveling with a baby. I didn’t experience this, thank goodness, but I was totally prepared for it. For the most part, we were either treated very nicely or just basically ignored. That said, your baby will still probably do something that someone will find annoying. Babies are too mobile and too curious to sit completely still, so the chances that they’re going to bang on the tray table, reach through the seat crack and touch someone, squeal loudly (either out of anger or delight), or kick someone’s seat is very likely. You just have to hope that people will try to ignore it or at least pretend that they find it as cute as you do (although we all know they’re lying).

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11. Elevators are everywhere and they are your friend. Never try to navigate an escalator with a stroller. We had zero issues using the elevators, except for the fact that D hates them and cries every time we get in one.

12. Babies can ride on shuttles and it’s no big deal. I know this probably sounds stupid, but I was having major issues with the fact that we’d have to take a shuttle to our rental car. Since I’m not allowed to park in the airport’s short term parking lot (rates are too high and my company won’t reimburse unless it’s long-term parking), I made my husband drop me and baby D off at the airport while he went to park the car and ride the shuttle back. Once we got to Philly, we found out we would need to take a shuttle to the rental car facility. We just hoisted the stroller up and onto the shuttle and locked the wheels so it wouldn’t roll around. Is it a safety issue? Yes, definitely. But is that your only choice and is it legal? Yes. It also sucks for fellow shuttle riders. I’m sure I banged a few ankles and knees with our stroller, but they were polite enough to accept my apology and ignore it.

13. If you’re renting a car, upgrade to a full size or an SUV. I say this for two reasons: 1. Luggage/stroller space. We rented a full size, which was a Nissan Altima, and it was like playing Tetris to get our luggage and stroller to both fit in the trunk together. 2. Car seat size. Our infant seat bumps right up to the driver/passenger seats, so we always have to move them up to give the car seat plenty of room. This is not possible in smaller cars, unless you want to feel like you’re in a clown car.

14. There is no “traveling lightly” when it comes to traveling with a baby. There just isn’t. Accept it, embrace the fact that you have most of the contents of your home with you, and move on.

15. Stay positive. Babies feed off your energy. If you’re in a bad mood, chances are your baby will pick up on your anxiety and will be irritable too. Stay optimistic that everything will be great, and just enjoy the ride.
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Flying with Baby – Part 1

Tomorrow, I head to Philly to speak at the Type-A Parent Advanced conference. While I’m excited to sit around and geek out about professional blogging, I’m completely freaking out about taking baby D on his first flight.

I’ve been reading a few articles that have been helpful.

This one from Parenting Starts Here. And this one from Flying with a Baby, which is especially helpful for International flights.

There’s just one thing that every single advice column I read left out. One very small but very important thing.

A copy of your child’s birth certificate.

Seems easy, right? Logical, even? Except I didn’t think of this until today – the day before our flight. FAIL.

Even worse is that some time during the whole birthing process, as I was laying in my hospital bed, recovering from my c-section and trying to mentally process the fact that I was now a mom, and also that my baby was currently in the NICU and OMG when is my effing milk going to come in – I didn’t really pay attention when the nurse went over the whole birth certificate, social security card thing. I remember filling out some forms and hearing that things would come in the mail, but that’s about it. Hadn’t thought about it since. Fast forward to today and I found myself wondering where in the world that birth certificate could be. Did we get it in the mail? I don’t remember getting it. Turns out, the state of Missouri doesn’t send you a copy of your child’s birth certificate. If you want a copy, you have to pay for it. What a fucking racket that is! At the advice of a fellow mom, I found out I could get a copy of his birth certificate instantly if I just took my happy ass down to City Hall.

So I did just that. In the middle of a rainstorm. And when I got there, I was told “Cash only.”

IT’S 20-EFFING-13!! Figure out how to accept plastic, state of Missouri!

Obviously, I didn’t have enough cash on me so I had to go back out in the monsoon to my car, find my debit card, and walk to the other side of the building to use their on-site ATM (and pay a nice little fee). THEN I was finally able to get a copy of baby D’s birth certificate. And they gave it to me with a nice white envelope that was too small to hold it, so I had to shield this precious piece of paper with my body to keep it from getting destroyed on the way back to my car. Lovely.

Ok, so back to the point of this post. If you’re planning a flight with baby at any point in your life, get your damn birth certificate. Preferably not during a major thunderstorm, and don’t forget – bring plenty of CASH.

I’ll share more flying with baby tips once I actually figure out what the hell I’m doing.

 

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After what happened yesterday, I’ve been rather quiet on social media. I have nothing intelligent to add. My heart aches for the people in Boston, and it aches for the people that will forever have fear supporting one of our country’s most beloved events. I want to do something. I want to help, but I can only watch in horror before it becomes too much and I have to turn off the TV, step away from the computer, and just go stack blocks with my baby.

But there is something I can do. I can learn to live without fear. And I can continue to try my best to fill the world with love. How? By living a happy life and focusing on only the positives. Like this.

  • I made pink lemonade cupcakes for my aunt’s birthday on Sunday. My grandma even pulled out her fancy tablecloth and her good china. We dined on lasagna, toasted ravioli, salad, chicken wings, and of course, cupcakes.
  • The hubs and I took advantage of the nice weather and wandered about. We went to the Baby Kid Expo, stopped by the driving range so the hubs could hit a few golf balls (and I actually made it onto the green too!), ate lunch at one of our favorite lunch places, and made time to enjoy a couple of movie rentals, which is a rare occasion in our house. (This is 40 and Zero Dark Thirty, in case you’re wondering. I give the first one a C+ and the second an A-)
  • First birthday party planning is in full effect. The theme is puppies, and the I absolutely love our invitations, which we had designed by someone I found on Etsy. We should get the prints next week. I still need to figure out the cake situation, but I think I’ve got a photographer lined up for first year photos. Speaking of the cake, I’m tempted to just bake it myself. I scoured the Interwebs looking at cake designs and the only ones I loved were a little over-the-top with fondant, which I’m worried won’t taste very good. So I’m still deciding what to do here. Make a bone shaped cake? Make cupcakes? Make a layered round cake with filling and decorate it with mini bunting or a topper?   Not to mention we’re actually throwing two parties, since the majority of our family lives 8 hours away, and I really don’t want to spend a fortune on this. But I mean, how cute is this cake?

bonecake

 

Although this one would fit our theme colors perfectly, I’m leery of all the fondant.

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So I may just go with some simple cupcakes. Like these.

pupcakes

(All photos borrowed from Pinterest. See sources here.)

Tell me happy things, friends. What good things are happening in your world?

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Last week, I was perusing Twitter as I am wont to do and I saw someone tweet their condolences out to someone else. The nosy neighbor in me did a few clickity clicks to see what happened and I soon found myself down a rabbit hole of my worst nightmare: Cancer. Melanoma. Chemotherapy. Death.

Just that morning, I was thinking about how awfully pale I am right now. I remember a couple of years ago, the last time I went to a tanning bed, right before our trip to Maui. I had convinced myself that I a) needed to look good for our trip and b) more importantly, needed to tan so that I wouldn’t burn to a crisp so easily on the beach. It all made sense in my head, despite everything I knew about the risks. I’ve been tanning lots of times. In college. Before my wedding. And before most big beach vacations. So of course I was considering it again. I wanted to look good and I wanted to be able to have a good base tan going so I wouldn’t burn. Boy, was I stupid.

So when I saw blogs of young women suffering with this most deadly form of skin cancer (and one whose new husband died shortly after they got married), I didn’t just rethink my tanning bed idea. I squashed it and made an appointment with a dermatologist.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a really mole-y person. Despite my dark/ethnic features, I don’t tan well. It takes hours for me to burn, and when I do, SOMETIMES it turns to a nice tan color. Actually, without the help of a tanning bed, I pretty much never truly get tan. I burn and freckle, but it takes awhile. I’ve tried a few tan-in-a-bottle sprays and lotions but let’s be honest, they have a long way to go in that department. I always mess up the application or it just looks too orange. I’d rather just be pasty pale, thankyouverymuch.

When I was about 13, I had a birthmark mole removed from my left arm. It wasn’t cancerous, but it was ugly and I was ashamed of it so I had it removed. The plastic surgeon completely botched the surgery and left me with a scar that looks like one of those vaccine scars people born in the early 60’s have. It’s much larger than the mole that it replaced, but I don’t regret for one second having that mole removed. In December, before my health insurance changed, I made an appointment with a dermatologist to look over my moles. She spent roughly 2 minutes with me before she coldly said she didn’t see any issues and walked out. I was satisfied at the time, but when I started to think about it, would I bet my life on that one, brief examination? Because that’s essentially what I was doing. I decided that no, I wanted a second opinion. So I made an appointment with a friend’s brother-in-law. (Dr. Jason Amato for anyone in St. Louis looking for a good dermatologist.) They were able to fit me in within a week, which is completely unheard of with dermatologists, it seems. I’ve heard of 8+ week waits at some places!

I also hopped on over to The Honest Company’s website and bought two tubes of sunscreen, since they’re baby-safe. It’s only 30 SPF but it’s also water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. I’ve seen some sunscreens out there that are 60 SPF! The higher SPF, the better. And you know I’ll be lathering up my kid in this stuff all summer long.

My appointment was today. I scheduled an appointment with his assistant, Jennifer, since she can basically do all the same things and procedures. I showed her the moles I was most concerned about – one on the back of my left arm and a new, rapid growing one on the bottom of my left foot, in the arch, that wasn’t there two years ago and is now the size of a pencil eraser. (If you really want the shit scared out of you, just Google “moles on the bottom of feet” and see what comes up. The Internet will tell you it’s a sure-fire death sentence. But this isn’t actually true. What IS true is that if the mole is Melanoma, and it’s on the palms/soles of your hands and feet, then it’s typically more aggressive, so the Internet is sort-of right.) Anyway, she didn’t think either one looked terribly menacing, but agreed they were abnormal enough to have removed and tested, if for no other reason than peace of mind. I full expected to start talking about timelines for rescheduling a removal appointment but she said she could do it right there, right now. I panicked for a moment because I wasn’t expecting to get Novacaine shots so soon, but I wanted it done and over with so I agreed to go ahead. Ten minutes later, I have two less moles to worry about now. And in about a week or two, I’ll have the test results back. (Assume no news from me is good news, if I don’t mention it again.) The procedure was simple and relatively painless. (Shots are never fun, but that was seriously the worst of it. Never  felt a thing with the removal and I’m walking just fine, though I won’t be doing any running or extensive activity anytime soon.)

So this is my plea from me to you. Wear sunscreen. Stay out of tanning beds. And check your skin. The last words on the last blog post of the woman that had died that I saw on Twitter was to “Check your skin, people. Check your skin.”

You’re only given one body. Take care of it.

 

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Weekends go by too fast

For the first time in weeks, we didn’t really have any plans this weekend.

On Saturday, we did housework (or rather, the hubs did most of the housework while I was on baby duty). I made a 5pm mani/pedi appt for my grandma and me as sort of a (very) late Christmas present. It’s been about 20 years since she’s had a manicure and she has NEVER had a professional pedicure before, although it’s recommended that she do because she has diabetes. Something about the fact that she’s not supposed to clip her own toenails. Well, I’m pretty sure she’s addicted to pedicures now. She really had a great time, as did I. And it was nice to get her put of the house and do something indulgent like that.

Saturday night the hubs and I stayed up way too late watching SNL. You would think after 10mos, we would know that just because it’s the weekend doesn’t mean we’ll get to sleep in. Baby D doesn’t care what day it is. In fact, he decided to get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday.

Sunday was a pretty special day. It’s our dog’s 7th bday as well as the 7th anniversary of the day we closed on our first house. We “celebrated” the latter by going to a bunch of open houses.

The weather was absolutely stunning so we took advantage and spent some
time at the park, reading a board book and dog watching. Then we watched the hubs hit a few golf balls at the driving range, did a little shopping and then came home to do our nightly routine. A low key but perfect weekend.

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Baby D’s new playmat.

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Happy 49th old dog!

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Frog pajamas!

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