Friday, January 25, 2013

The Schwartz's vs Cody's 16 Months Old

Cody, my little man, you are 16 months old and here's what you're up to:

* You are all boy and you are a mess.  You like to rough house.  You like to walk up and push people and giggle.  It's all fun and games when you do it to mommy or daddy but when you do it to Sissy and other kids at the Y it gets you in trouble.  
* You are a human pinball.  You run into stuff all the time, bounce off of it and keep walking sometimes in a different direction like you meant to do that.  It doesn't even phase you for the most part.
* You aren't a big talker yet.  And I can see that it frustrates you.  You are going through another bout of the crying and whining but you've also added hitting into it.  I hope you start talking soon so that you and me can communicate better.
* Some words you can say for certain: mommy, duck, bee, puppy, meow, mine.
* Words you can say but only mommy and daddy know what you are saying: brush, toothbrush, marshmallow 
* Just recently you've started to be able to point to your ears and you try to point to your eyes but usually hit your forehead.  
* Your favorite mode of transportation is running.  
* You have the best devilish grin of a smirk.  I love it.  I know it means trouble when I see it, but I still love it.
* You are naughty.  Whenever I shower you either completely unroll the toilet paper or you dump all the bandaids out of the boxes.  
* In the past month or so you've finally started to like being read to.  Its sweet and I love it.  You're favorite books right now are Brown Bear ("bibaw") and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.  Sometimes you'll sit on my lap for 20 or 30 minutes at a time to read with me.  Other times you can't get past the first page before you start squirming.  But reading to my babies is my favorite thing to do so I'm glad you sit with me at all.
* Your favorite toy right now is Mr. Potato Head.  
* You are going through an anti-nap phase but you are still a wonderful little boy at bed time.  When I tell you to go give people hugs and love you run to them and make the kissy muuuuuha sound then run away.  
* You are your father's son in that you have a mullet.  At first I've tried to ignore it.  Then I laughed about it.  Now it's a little out of control so in the next week or so I'll take you for your first hair cut.  
* You are tons of fun and we're glad to have you in our family!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Schwartz's vs Build-a-Bear Birthday Party

Before I begin, let me apologize for the photo overload.  The cuteness level was off the charts at Sarah's Build-a-Bear Princess Party and we took well over 100 pictures.  It took going through the pictures 5 times before I narrowed it down to the ones I'm sharing here.  I wish you could see them all.  Each picture is sweet and precious in its own way.  The girls were so delighted at every nuance of the party.  The excitement and wonder on their faces just warms my heart.  I would say this birthday party is pretty high up on my list of best parenting moments.  

A quick back story on how this party came to be.  Sarah is my first and so I'm still trying to get the hang of what kind of birthday party mom I want to be.  With her birthday in December it's really hard not only to separate it from Christmas celebrations (a big stress for me) but also how to accommodate everyone.  For her first birthday we did just family in town.  Now that may sound small except that equals 6 grown adult Schwartzes and at this point 7 Schwartz kids ranging from 9 years to 2 months.  That's 13 people in my tiny living room and kitchen before I even start inviting Sarah's friends.  So for her second birthday I just did our family (me, Chris, Sarah, and Cody) and her 3 aunties (my best friends).  It was nice and cozy and stress free but made me feel a little guilty and I think it made the in town grandparents feel a little left out (as evidenced when this year my MIL and SIL took the Schwartz family celebration of Sarah's birthday into their own hands and planned it without me).  So when Cody's first birthday came around I thought I'd try the over the top approach that so many moms enjoy. It's in the early fall so we rented a park pavilion, hand made every decoration, cooked a bunch of food, did all the cutesy coordinated paper products and food labels, and invited over 50 people.  It was ridiculous.  It was stressful.  And it made me realize, I'm not that mom.  I'm just not.  I love looking at pictures from those mom's parties and envy them but I don't enjoy doing it myself.  I spent way too much time, energy, and money and by the time the party came I was too stressed out and exhausted to enjoy it.  

There has to be a better way to do a birthday party for a kid.  One that is fun for the kids and the adults and that won't stress me out.  So when I heard that Build-a-Bear was releasing a Disney Princess bear, I thought bingo!  This is it!  I told Sarah, "Guess where we are going for your birthday?  Build-a-Bear!"  And she immediately said, "Oh I'm so excited!  I'm going to make a princess bear!"  Little did she know how true that was.  Ha!  

I loved everything leading up to this party.  A Build-a-Bear party is the easiest thing in the world to plan, book, and have.  They start as low as $60 and you can do all the planning in your pjs online if you want.  First you can play around with their fun Party Calculator .  Then, once you realize what a great idea this is, to book a party all you have to do is click on the link here.  They've even made your invitations and thank you cards.  All you have to do is print them out.  I'm telling you, this party was so easy for me to set up I actually felt like I wasn't doing enough.  And I loved it!  But in my own type-A fashion it started to bug me that I hadn't had to do a thing to prep for this party so I stopped by the store 2 days before just to get a run down of how things would go.  It wasn't necessary but it made me feel like I had done at least some party prep work.  =)  Oh yeah, the store manager also called me on the Monday before the party to confirm everything and double check the budget for the party.  Those Build-a-Bear people are awesome!  I seriously can't think of a better way/place to have a birthday party.  I was super excited about this party.  Sarah was thrilled about this party.  She couldn't stop talking about it and kept asking when her party was.  All my mommy friends were excited about it as well as their kids.  And this was all before we ever stepped foot in the door for the actual party!

Since Build-A-Bear released a Disney Princess bear and Sarah is all about the Disney Princesses I thought we'd go all out for the party.  The invitations told the girls they were royally invited to Princess Sarah's birthday party and asked that they come dressed as their favorite princess.  I think that was the best decision ever!  It would have been cute to see this gaggle of 3 year olds make their Princess bear but seeing them in their princess dresses doing it blew the cuteness level off the roof!  

Before the party started the Build-a-Bear host Carolyn got all of Princess Sarah's presents and packed them nicely behind the counter so that all the girls and mommy's were free to enjoy the party without having to keep an eye on them.  Love it!  I was also able to put my big bag with the refreshments back there for safe keeping.  Then she gathered the girls and gave them name tags.  Sarah got a special tag that said her age, except she's obsessed with the number 5 right now so instead of saying Sarah is 3, she told the party hostess that she was turing 5 and the girl believed her.  Ha!

Getting our name tags

In honor of the new Disney Princess Bear  the store has some really cute pink bear crowns that come with the purchase of the princess bear.  Since we were doing a Princess Bear Party the girls immediately set to work decorating their crowns with the jewel stickers.  

 We had a couple of Princes at the party and Carolyn gave us some ribbon to make them bowties.  The guys didn't really go for it, but it was sweet of her to think of something for them.  I loved these little crowns though!  They really should do them for all birthday parties.  The kids were so cute with them.  Sarah normally doesn't go for party hats but she wore this for almost the entire party.
 Carolyn, the party hostess, was even kind enough to make me a crown since I was the "party mom".
 Next the girls were introduced to their bears and had to wake them up with some exercises.  I love how excited Princess Avery (on the right) is to get her bear.  I don't think she could stretch her arms out any further.
 After the girls woke their bears up, Carolyn showed them how to listen to the bears whisper their names to them.
 Then she patiently waited as each girl told her the name of their new furry friend and pulled the tags so that the birth certificates could be made while the party was going on.
 After naming them it was time to head over to the fluffing station.  But like Carolyn said, walking is boring so since Sarah was the party princess she got to choose if they should skip or hop.
 At the stuffing station the first order of business was for everyone to pick two hearts.  If I had known how stinking cute the Heart Ceremony was going to be I would have asked someone to video it.  It was so incredibly adorable.  Both the process itself and the girls.  They were so excited and into it.  They had big eyes and big smiles as they followed all of Carolyn's instructions on how to fill the heart with love.
 I was helping Cody fill his heart up.  He giggled and smiled the whole time.  Even at 15 months they get how awesome and fun this is.

 Squeezing the heart tight and making a wish the final step before it goes into a bear.

Each girl got 2 hearts because one goes in their bear, but the first heart goes into Sarah's bear.  So here all the girls were filling their hearts with love and good wishes and then got to put it into Sarah's bear so that her bear would always be full of their love for her.  How sweet is that!  It's especially cute with one little 3 year old who kept sneaking over to the heart dispenser and getting another one to put in because she "really, really loves Sarah a bunch".  
 Putting the hearts in Sarah's bear

Next they had to do the whole process over again for their own bear's heart.  And the cuteness once again abounds.  

 Alright this may be my favorite picture from the heart ceremony.  Here they girls are rubbing the hearts on their heads and their toes so that their bear will always love them from head to toe.  Look at the faces of Sarah (in the purple) and Jessie (in the pink).  They are eating this up.  They LOVED it.  And I loved it.  And all the mom's loved it.  I think we all had smiles on our faces as big as our girls watching them do this.  So many of the mom's during the party told me how cute this was and how much fun they were having and their girls were having.  It was great.  We loved every minute of it.

After the bear's hearts were full of love it was time to stuff the bear.  Each girl got to push the pedal to control the stuffing machine as Carolyn filled the bears up.
 Filling them up.
 Stitching them shut.
 Giving her new bear some love.
 We had 6 princesses and 2 princes bears to stuff, but the process was fast and Carolyn kept the girls busy playing hot potato while they waited for their turn at the stuffing machine.  Then it was off to the bath tub to give their new furry friends a quick bath and brush.
 A sea of pink and a penguin.  We let the 2 princes pick from the wall.  =)

Then after the bears were clean it was time to dress them.  Now this is not a mandatory part of the party process.  Since we were doing a Princess party and the girls came in their princess dresses I really wanted them to have the opportunity to dress up their bears.  But you don't have to (remember parties start as low as $10/guest).  However, I think dressing up the bears is a ton of fun, so I'd still recommend budgeting for them to get to pick a shirt out (shirts are about $6).

Once again since I was doing a full on princess party they had already pulled all the princess dresses for the girls to choose from.  The selection was huge!  They had Princess Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana, Tinkerbell, Rapunzel, Merida, and Esmerelda (from The Hunchback).  Some of them came with really cute touches, like Tinkerbell has wings and a wand, Cinderella comes with a necklace and gloves, and Merida even comes with a wig!  The girls could try on as many as they wanted while they decided which one they wanted to keep.

 Although leading up the party Sarah was convinced she was going to make a Cinderella bear, the day of the party she decided on Rapunzel.
 Princess Avery dressed her bear up like Tinkerbell.  (My favorite of the costumes.)
Princess Madison dressed her bear up to match her in a Merida costume.  See the wig?  How cute!  Merdia also comes with a bow and arrow of course. 

 Getting the bears dressed.
 My little Rapunzel with her little Rapunzel.
 Of course Prince Cody didn't have to dress his up like a princess.  He went with Woody instead.  It was a close tie between that and the Pirate costume but once he saw the hat he was sold. 

Then it was time to bunny hop back to the front of the store to take a group picture, get their birth certificates, and pack the bears into their homes

Our best attempt at a group picture

 A couple of our little kiddos were being shy and didn't want to be in the picture, and again trying to get  all the little girls to look and smile at once is impossible.

When you have your birthday party, Build-a-Bear gives the guest of honor a special present.  Sarah received an autograph bear for each of her party guests to sign so she can always remember who came to her very special build a bear party.

Then Carolyn let Sarah ring the store bell to call everyone's attention and the whole store stopped and sang a special happy birthday song to her.  It was so cute!
 She loved being the center of attention and having everyone sing to her.
 Then everyone headed to the food court where daddy was waiting with the table set up and the cake ready to go.
 It was cute to see passersbys smile at all the little girls dressed up in their princess gowns.  It was even more adorable when Sarah was carrying her Rapunzel bear out to the car.  So cute!  You seriously have to take your little girl in her princess dress to make this bear.  Melt. Your. Heart.

Full Disclosure: Build-A-Bear provided me with a gift card to help offset the cost of the party in return for this review.  However, the opinions expressed are 100% the truth and completely mine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Schwartz's vs Sarah is 3!

My Dear Sweet Sarah, 

You are 3 years old now!  It seems so crazy that you went to Sunbeams this past Sunday.  You walked right in and sat on the front row like a big girl.  You immediately turned to the girl next to you and said, "I like your dress."  I love that about you.  You are the sweetest girl and give sincere compliments to everyone we meet.  Last night at the restaurant you told the manager you liked her bracelets.  Today as we walked past a woman heading into the Y you smiled at her and said, "I like your hair."  You are kind, considerate, and friendly.  I hope that never changes.  I hope you are always the first person to say hi to a new kid and invite them to play with you.  I hope you are always the person to brighten other people's days with your kind words of affirmation.  I know that when you put your arms around me and tell me that "I'm the best mommy ever" it makes me smile a little bigger.

Sarah, you are head strong and we do clash from time to time.  Your first instinct is to pout when you get told no and cry when that doesn't work.  But you are learning how to temper yourself and calm down.  Recently you had your worst tantrum to date, after 40 minutes of weeping and wailing and throwing yourself at the bedroom door you finally stopped, sniffed a little, and said calmly, "Mommy, I'm done crying now.  Will you open the door please?"  When I did the first thing you said was, "Mommy, I'm sorry for telling you no and being ugly."  I was so proud of you in that moment.  You aren't always going to get what you want and it's ok to be mad or upset.  It's even ok to have outbursts from time to time when you can't figure out how to handle these big emotions in your tiny body.  The important thing is you not only apologized but you were specific and knew exactly what you did that was wrong without being told or reminded.  You will make many mistakes throughout your life.  Please know that the best place to start afterwards is with "I'm sorry" and then you can go from there.

We've had a lot of exciting things happen for you this past year.  You've been on quite a few vacations.  We went to a family reunion over the summer and you met your Grandpa Smith's brothers and sisters and some of their kids and grandkids (your second and third cousins).  You were able to take a special vacation to Disney World with me, Grandma Smith, Auntie Cam, and we met Aunt Sarah there.  You loved every minute of it and still talk about that trip.  You are my favorite traveling companion.  You love to ride in the car and watch movies.  You don't often sleep in the car anymore, but you never complain about riding even long distances.  And now that you are completely potty trained (except for at night) it makes going places a little easier as long as we stop often for potty breaks.

You also started dance class and go once a week.  You love it.  You smile from ear to ear the whole time.  I want to set the foundation even at this young age to let you know that exercise and sports are important in this family.  They will teach you to control your body, manage your time, set goals, and follow through.  As you grow, change athletic endeavors and sports, it will also teach you how to humbly win and graciously lose.  It will teach you leadership skills and how to take directions from coaches and peers.  But right now in dance, I just want to teach you that you are beautiful, moving can be fun, and maybe, if we're lucky, a little musicality so you are not as uncoordinated as your mother. 

Sarah, I love you.  Your daddy loves you.  And your Cody loves you.  I actually don't know a single person who has met you that doesn't love you.  Your bright and cheery personality instantly draws people to you.  I have many hopes and dreams for you and your future and those things will hopefully come to fruition in time.  But for right now, I want to stress to you that kindness is your best characteristic and important to keep and further develop.  I guess all these years of singing the kindness song to you whenever you or I were getting frustrated with each other has paid off.  

I want to be kind to everyone.  
For that is right you see.
So I say to myself, remember this:
Kindness begins with me.

I love you dear girl and can't wait to see how you grow in this coming year.

All my love,

Sarah's 3 Year Old Birthday Interview