Monday, August 22, 2011

Pictures with a 2 year old...

never go quite as expected. Thank goodness I had a good friend doing my maternity pictures. With friends you can just be yourself which is really nice when you have a 2 year old to corral. It started off as I expected... Bear refusing to do anything asked of her, (she's two her motto is "Do the opposite"). I was prepared for that. We brought out the reinforcers, her favorite M&M's (didn't work), bubbles (she's two they always work), and balloons. She began to warm up and we started to have some fun. No she still wouldn't kiss the baby or give mommy hugs but we got some adorable shots. Then I asked her to do a costume change... What was I thinking? I took her shirt off and she decided she ABSOLUTELY was NOT putting on the beautiful blue shirt I just spent all morning running around looking for so that we could get awesome pics of her eyes... I gave up fighting her and decided to change my own outfit. I figured she could play and I would do some just mommy belly shots. So here I am in pre-maternity jeans that of course don't zip (I in fact broke the zipper attempting to zip them a little), and a cheesecloth wrapped around my top part so that I wasn't completely exposed while showing off my belly. Disclaimer... I know a few people who are offended by bare belly maternity poses but here's how I feel about it... My body is forever changed... you will never see me taking pics in a bikini (my thighs are hideous), there are entire styles of shirts and bathing suits I will never be able to wear again, but my stomach right now is GORGEOUS... aside from some barely visible gallbladder scars I am one of the very lucky ones that do not (yet) have stretch marks. I know that for the rest of my life I will be self-conscious of my stomach so for this moment I want to document how awesome it was!
OK disclaimer over...
So here I am in the park of one of the richest suburbs in America, completely exposed and I turn around and see my child in a tutu, blue fairy wings, and no shirt jumping off a picnic table, happy as can be. See this is why I am glad that the photographer is a friend... instead of being irritated that my child wouldn't get dressed, Jennifer from embraced her 2-ness and documented this moment of abandon that she will hate when she is 16 and the 20x24 print is still above our mantel.

Then it just turned crazy... apparently children in rich suburbs do not need to go to the bathroom while frolicking in the park, or else the bathrooms are very discretely hidden because that was the moment my 2 year old decided she HAD TO PEE. What am I supposed to do? She is half naked... I am half naked and there is no bathroom in site? I consulted my sister and somehow we decided to let her pee in the grass. I totally thought she would say no way! She is a strict rule following for the most part and likes to tell us "doggies pee in the grass, Bear pees in the potty" but nope... she jumped at the chance, so here she is naked and giggling that she is peeing like the dogs as I try to keep the mess to a minimum with my pre-preg jeans hardly over my own butt and nothing more than a cheesecloth wrap around my boobs tied back with a hair tie... did I mention we were in one of the nicest suburbs in the country? Yet again... I don't think I will ever do pictures again when the photographer isn't a dear dear friend... you can take this family out of North Florida... but I guess there is still a little North Florida in us :o) (no offense to all my friends in North Florida but be real some of you are probably wondering why I care that my kid was peeing on million dollar grass in the middle of a public park wearing nothing but fairy wings...)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vacation with a 2 year old...

...sure is different than we used to plan get-aways! But there is no reason it can't be just as much fun! We just got back from an awesome vacation. It wasn't anything exotic. In fact we just drove a few hours to Wisconsin but man did we pack in a ton of fun! I was a little worried that I would end up going into labor but at least Madison has a good hospital... doesn't it??? I didn't have to worry about that though, my sweet hubby constantly asked "Are you drinking your water?" "Do you need to sit?" and I even heard, "I am so hot I can't imagine how you feel." That was more refreshing than a cold bucket of water over my head... ok maybe close!
So here was our trip if anyone with little ones wants to try to duplicate all or part of it.
We started Friday afternoon and drove up to Milwaukee (it's about 1 hr. 45 min. north of our house).

The WI State Fair was going on which is always a good time. The night we went was an added bonus because it was discounted admission for Illinois residents! For a pregnant woman it's even better because it is miles of delicious food! For Bear the best part is the animals. Barns upon Barns full of cows, pigs, horses, sheep... anything 4H.
A lot of the kids from the different farms will let the kids go up and touch the animals and teach them all about the animals and farming.
They also have a barn full of educational and hands on activities to interact with the animals. Bear absolutely loved it and it was free so we loved it (more money for the food)
After the animals is the midway with all the rides. I like this area at this fair a lot for 2 reasons. #1) It is all the way down at the far end so if you don't want to go down there your kids have no idea it even exists. #2) The kiddie rides are completely seperate from the adult rides so it really is a calmer safer environment for the kids. I am not a huge fan of some of the rides. They were a little old but hey we survived and she had a blast.
For 20 bucks she got to ride just about everything. They also have an option for an all you can ride band but I like the finality of a set number of tickets when dealing with 2 year olds and limits.
After eating our body weight (and Im 7 mo. pregnant... thats alot of body weight!) in food we did spend a good bit of money but had a great time. I discovered that WI really does know how to make 2 things... Brats and Cheese! If you go you MUST have a Brat and cheese curds. I've avoided cheese curds for years because it sounded gross but OMG they were heaven!
Next we drove over to Madison where we booked a hotel room at an indoor water park. It was a nice little drive and gave us all a chance to digest our food and cool down. I can't say enough about this hotel. We had a room on the 3rd floor with a private balcony overlooking the indoor water park.
Our room was perfect. We had two queen beds and a living room that was separated by a hallway with a mini fridge, coffee pot, microwave etc. Each room had a nice flat screen tv and were far enough apart that the kids could sleep in one room and we could watch tv in the other but still have an ear out for them. The pool balcony was off of the living room so there were no noises in the bedroom area. The living room also had another pull out queen bed. The only down side to the room was that it did not have a shower which makes it difficult to bathe small children. The also have an option to get a room with bunk beds which might be nice if you also have older children.
The hotel has a restaurant on site which serves a buffet breakfast. It seemed a little steep to us at $10 a person when it really was just a continental breakfast with a few more hot items added. Kids under 12 do eat free though so if you have alot of kids it might be worth it. There is a grocery store and Target right down the road so we picked up a bunch of things for the room as well.
The pool was perfect for young kids. There is a huge ship with two slides and the water in that pool is just a few inches. There are also two smaller slides. Bear didn't like the fountains spraying water but it was easy to avoid them.
They also had a larger deeper pool with a basket ball hoop and a larger slide. We discovered if you went down it sitting up with the toddler in your lap it really didn't go very fast and was a lot of fun.
Bear played in the pool for HOURS which is much longer than usual. We liked it better than our hotel at the Wisconsin Dells that had an indoor waterpark.
The next morning we headed to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison. I can't speak highly enough about this zoo. First of all it's FREE! SCORE! It is a small zoo but they have tons of animals. All of the animals are close together so there is not alot of time for kiddos to get bored. I know mine likes to move from animal to animal. The animals are also nice and close so they can really see them. The best part for Bear was the map.
As you can see it was color coded and had a silhouette of each animals so she could check what was coming next. It was so adorable as soon as we would see one animals she would say "Let me check my map" and see what the next one was even though it was 30 feet away. They had some really cool animals like the red panda which is hubby's favorite. The outdoor play area was really nice too. I thought it was too big for her but it was very parent friendly as well so with a little help from daddy she had a great time.
Another great feature of this zoo is the carousel. First of all its indoors which was a very nice respite from the heat. It is very nicely maintained with beautiful animals. This was one of the few things that required payment but when you have a 2 year old you know it's not optional. I think it was only $2 though. They also had a train and camel rides that you could pay for. The last thing that really impressed me about this zoo was the concession prices. Being a free zoo I thought that was where they would get us but they didn't! It was very reasonable for zoo food and they even had snacks like goldfish and animal crackers for the kids for just over $1!
Next we headed to the Madison Children's Museum. I would love to review it for you but it was closed for a special event. We were very disappointed but at least we got to catch the tail end of a WONDERFUL farmers market.
Everyone was walking around with beautiful flowers so we had to get some too! It runs until November, every Saturday until 2. There were so many yummy produce stands but of course Bear wanted cookies. She had her pick of baked goods!
It is right around the capital building and was such a beautiful area. Madison is very artsy and had tons of wonderful independent coffee shops and places to eat in this area. In fact I never saw one dunkin donuts or starbucks the whole time we were there.
We figured if Madison does dairy well we just had to have some ice cream! I heard about this place
where you just have to try the Fat Elvis ice cream. It is banana ice cream with huge clumps of peanut butter and chocolate swirls. It was DIVINE! They also happened to have fruit loops ice cream which made my two year old sooo happy. She wanted blue ice cream and loves fruit loops. They had a little kids area to play filled with Melissa and Doug toys which was awesome since there was quite a line at this place!

Sunday morning we went swimming again and then headed back to Milwaukee. We hit up the Milwaukee Co. Zoo. It was a HUGE zoo especially compared to the zoo in Madison. They had a train that ran through the woods and around the zoo that was beautiful. They also had pony rides and camel rides but make sure you have cash on hand because they don't take cards. Many of the animals came up very very close which was really exciting for Bear. After a busy busy weekend we were definitely worn out!