Monday, April 30

Love Thy Neighbor

I thought I'd branch out a little and start writing about some things that maybe aren't directly baby-related but are more just life-in-general stuff. My reasons: One, because (contrary to what this blog seems to imply) my life is about more than just my child; Two, because not everyone cares about my child and that he learned how to honk the horn on his riding car last week (which, incidentally, he did); and Three, I think I'm running out of original material with the child, so I thought I'd develop some other topics of interest to blog about.

First on the list, Our Neighbors. Don't worry. This is not a post where I rant or complain about everything that drives me crazy about the people who live around us, although I can't promise it will be completely free of complaining because sometimes it slips out without me even realizing it. Rather these are just some observations I've made and some entertaining little anecdotes I wanted to share.

We bought our house in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia a little over three years ago in January 2009. It was the very first house we looked at, and I fell immediately in love with it but someone else outbid us on it so we had to continue our search. When we couldn't seem to find anything else that we (mostly me) loved, a miracle happened and I saw that Our House (because it had already become that in my head) had been put back on the market. At the last minute, we put a new bid on it and it was ours! I have loved our neighborhood, our community, and our city ever since we moved in, and while we may eventually have to upsize (if we have the 10 kids that Blaine wants to have), we really look forward to many years in this house.

Of course, when you buy a house, you get the neighbors as well (unless you live in some distant and remote land I guess). Fortunately, most of ours turned out to be pretty good, and even though we only know three of their names, I thought I'd introduce you to our neighbors as we know them:

First there's John - He was the very first neighbor we met because my nana asked him to come help us light the pilot light on our water heater. He's the only neighbor that we know both his and his spouse's name, or their last name for that matter. And he's the one we talk to the most, meaning he always comes over to talk if he sees us outside. He's very nice and even gives us vegetables from his garden sometimes, but he's one of those that never really ends the conversation so you always have to do it yourself. I can handle that, but Blaine sort of has the same problem so he sometimes gets trapped into standing outside forever with John, just suffering through the awkward silences and trying to think of what else to say (as I look out the window laughing at him). One little problem with John is that he thinks Brock's name is Blake. I didn't correct him the first time he said it and so now it's gone on too long that I can't tell him! You know when that happens? You just don't really know how to break the news to them that they've been wrong all this time. I figure I'll just wait until Brock can say his own name then he'll probably correct John himself, and then John will think Brock is dumb and doesn't know his real name. What a predicament.

Then there's Mr. "Cathy" - That's not actually his name. Cathy is his wife's name, but I don't remember what his name is, so I just call him Mr. Cathy (not to his face though). I like Mr. Cathy because he gives us things that he cleans out of his garage. He brought us a huge bag of cookie cutters one day that his daughter used to cook with, and he gave us four big plastic tubs to put Brock's toys in. They have an older son in the military who graduated from high school last year and a daughter still in high school. Nice people.

The neighbor who formerly hated me - I've mentioned her a couple of times in the blog (Here and Here). In hindsight, I don't think she actually hated me. I think she's just more of an introvert like me and doesn't really talk to strangers. The interesting thing about Molly Maid (as Blaine refers to her, since she used to have a sticker on her car because she worked there or something) is that somehow she knew Brock's name and how old he was. We've never actually had a conversation before, just a "Hey, how's it going" here and there, but Blaine said he was outside with Brock one day not too long after his birthday, and she stopped and said, "Brock just turned a year old, didn't he?" I just thought it was strange because we've never talked to her, and I know she didn't find out from John because then she would have thought his name was Blake. Maybe she found the blog and reads it, which would be kind of embarrassing to me considering those first two posts.

Mr. "Talker" - Again, not a real name, but we've never actually introduced ourselves. He lives toward the beginning of our street and likes to sit outside and fiddle with his bicycles and fix stuff in his yard. He's a sweet little man and loves to talk, hence the nickname. I always pass him when I'm taking Brock on a walk, and Mr. Talker will usually start up a conversation as we're approaching his house and try to wrap it up by the time we pass, or maybe I wrap it up for him since I don't stop walking. That sounds kind of rude now that I think of it, but I'm just trying to get my exercise in and he seems to understand. He always starts off by commenting on the weather and ends by telling me to have a good day. I became a big fan of his the day he told me I was getting a lot of exercise walking Brock around but that I didn't even need it! I love you Mr. Talker!

Mr. & Mrs. Artificial Flowers - This house has been slightly amusing to me since the first day we moved in because they have all these bright, pretty, artificial flowers in window flower boxes and around their mailbox and their outdoor water fountain. I don't know why I find it funny, but I think it's because I never thought of it myself. I mean, how much easier and cost-efficient is that?! Quit worrying about digging and planting and putting in new flowers every season and just use artificial ones. Not to mention, you can have spring flowers all year long, even at Christmas or when there are 6 inches of snow outside. Mr. & Mrs. A.F. have a really pretty rock water fountain by their front porch and they keep it all lit up at night. It's always flowing, and Mr. A. F. is always tinkering with it. It seems like every evening I see him out there doing something to the fountain. I've always been curious what the inside of their house looks like for some reason.

The Meth House - This house, right across the street from ours, is on my neighborhood watch list because there are constantly 7 or 8 different cars parked in the driveway, and there are always different people going in and out. Ok, I don't really think it's a meth house (though I admit Blaine and I both had serious suspicions for a couple of months). The elderly lady who lives there has Alzheimer's and apparently her condition has gotten worse in the past year. She apparently also has about 10 children and 20 grandchildren with a million friends who come to check on her and take care of her because that house is busier than a train station. We met one of the granddaughters (and by "met", I mean we recognized her from across the street and observed her at work) working at Chick-fil-a one day, and she was very well-mannered and hard-working, which eased our concerns about whether she was a meth dealer. And after talking to John, who I forgot to mention is kind of the go-to guy for anything going on in the neighborhood, we realized that they are mostly all family helping out with their elderly mother/grandmother.

Brenda & The Screamers - In the house to the left of ours lives Brenda, Brenda's husband/boyfriend/lover?, and Brenda's grandchildren. Brenda's grandchildren like to play outside and scream like they are being murdered, particularly during Brock's nap time. Brock loves watching the little boy play basketball. Piper loves scaring the little boy to death by running after him and barking; poor kid. Mr. Brenda is an inspiration because when we first moved in to the house, he was quite large (yet unashamed, as he loved to walk around shirtless in his yard) and had a massive beard and long hair. At the beginning of last year, he started walking the neighborhood every day with Brenda or the kids and eventually cut his hair all off and shaved his beard. Blaine and I saw him one day a few months later and didn't even recognize him. He had lost at least 50 pounds and was no longer a hairy beast of a man. I was so impressed how he just kind of set his mind to it and drastically changed his appearance for the good. Now I think of Mr. Brenda every day when I start my walk with Brock and hope that my efforts will be rewarded like his were.

Finally, Mr. Landscaper - This man has THE most beautiful yard you've ever seen. He has rose bushes lining one side of the yard, tulips and daffodils blooming in huge patches in the Spring, a fountain in the backyard (you can see it from the road, I didn't trespass), a white trellis and swing, and flowers everywhere. I seriously love this yard and am so jealous of it. What's funny is that the man is probably 70 years old at least, but I see him out there planting and watering and pruning all the time. He's amazing. Anytime Blaine walks with us, I always point it out and say, "See, don't you want a yard that looks like that?!" One day I remarked to Blaine, who hates even mowing, "It's interesting to me as much as you love the outdoors that you don't like to do any landscaping in our yard." To which he replied, "I like the outdoors as they are; I like to leave them untouched and unadulterated by human hands." Which is fine if you're in the wilderness, but not so great if it's your lawn! Anyway, if I ever have a daughter I have plans to build a friendship with Mr. Landscaper and see if he'll let me have her pictures made in his yard (it's kind of too feminine for Brock with all the flowers, but it would be great with a little girl).


So, what can we take away from this post?
A.) I am a weirdo neighbor stalker who knows way too much about the people I live near since I've never actually met most of them. I'd say I'm a pair of binoculars short of being a freak.
B.) I need to be a little more sociable and friendly and introduce myself to these people who I've lived around for 3 years and don't know their names.
C.) There are some really fascinating people in this world, from whom I could probably learn a lot, and many of them can be found right across the street.

Friday, April 27

Friday Photo in Motion - Hi Brock

I often think about the amazing technology we have in our world today and how much it helps us, entertains us, teaches us, and allows us to procrastinate and put off real life yet still feel like we've accomplished something (thank you Pinterest and Facebook). Last week, I was once again fascinated with technology when my sister-in-law used her phone to videotape her daughter Anna (my niece and Brock's cousin) saying hi to Brock and then emailed it to us to watch. Anna and Brock have recently gotten to know each other a little better, and it is fun to watch them interact together. I'm hoping Anna will show him the ropes and inspire him to start walking soon. Anyway, here is the video of Anna saying hi to Brock. 

And here is Brock's reaction to the video. He loves the end where she brings her face in close to the camera and it makes him laugh. As you can tell, he wants to watch it over and over again and has almost figured out how to press the play button to make it work. You can also hear his version of her name. It comes out more like "Atta" than Anna, but he's working on it. Now we just need to teach them how to Skype each other. Our kids are definitely growing up in a privileged world!

Friday, April 20

Friday Photos - Better than White Water

For Brock's birthday, Blaine and I bought him a water table because it combines two of his favorite things: He loves being outside and loves playing in water (whether it's his bath or the dog's water bowl). One afternoon I set it up in our front yard and let him have at it. I don't even think we'll ever need to take him to any water parks because this thing was plenty of entertainment. Who needs White Water when you have your very own water table?! Seriously though, I was happy because I think we'll definitely get our money's worth out of this thing over the summer. Two thumbs up for water tables!

Drinking the water, which I'm sure was perfectly clean and sanitary
(Disclaimer: No plastic figurines were harmed in the making of these photos)
He loves spinning the water wheel and watching the water fly everywhere
I had my own fun with the water table as well

And the best part, his shirt unintentionally went along with the water theme

Sunday, April 1

Brock's First Birthday

We've had a busy and crazy week this past week, and everything has kind of been a whirlwind, so this is a little late getting posted. Brock turned a year old the Monday before last (3/19), and Blaine and I both took off work to celebrate the day with him. Then Saturday we had his actual birthday party with family and a few friends. Both days were so much fun, and I loved watching him experience the excitement of balloons and cake and presents. Now I'm catching up and blogging about it all.

While we may be reserved when it comes to gifts at Christmas (remember my post about our policy?), I am all about birthday presents! I love, love, love birthdays (with a preference for my own until I turned 26, and now I'm kind of over my birthday... I can't even keep track of how old I am anymore). I love the concept of birthdays: that it's your special day that you came into the world and that everyone celebrates you and all the years you've lived. I love the parties and the gifts and the gathering of family and friends. I love surprises and cake (Oh, I love cake a lot) and party themes and cake and games and fun. Did I mention I love birthday cake?

Anyway, it probably goes without saying then that I plan to do really great things for my children's birthdays. I remember my mom always throwing my sister and me the best parties (we almost always had to share parties because our birthdays were a day apart, but I hated that because she was three years younger than me, so that meant all her little friends were there with mine, ugh. I was a mean older sister). One year we had a food-fight party with a wheelbarrow of disgusting mush (wet bread, noodles, jello, etc.) to throw at each other while we all ran around in bathing suits and then played in the sprinklers afterward. The slumber parties were the greatest, with food and nail polish and movies and girl gossip. Oh man, I miss those days.

Now, I don't think that really great parties equal spending tons and tons of money so don't get me wrong there. And I didn't want to go overboard for Brock's first birthday because I've seen some pretty crazy first birthdays out there. I did want to do something fun, and I also wanted it to be something that all his little cousins would enjoy coming to (he has quite a few). I think it was a success because my nephew Jackson told me as he was leaving, "This was the Greatest. Party. Ever!" (Although, he has a precious tendency to be that enthusiastic about lots of things so I'm not sure if it was a completely accurate assessment; I'll take what I can get though.) I thought I'd write a little post about Brock's birthday and his party (or maybe a not so little post since I've already written four paragraphs and I'm only now just getting into the actual topic).

On his birthday day, we unfortunately had to go to the doctor that morning so that wasn't such a great thing since he had to get shots. But he came home and took a nap and then afterward we gave him his presents. I didn't wrap them because I figured he'd rather just be able to play with them immediately. So this is what he woke up to after his nap:

He was slightly more excited about the balloons than anything else, but that was okay. Then after he played with his presents a little while, we ate lunch at Chick-fil-a, went and got some thumbprint cookies from the bakery, and then went to the park near our house. Sadly my camera battery went dead so we only stayed at the park a few minutes because as Blaine said (in what may have been a sarcastic tone), "There's no use being at the park if we can't document it on camera." So we came back home, Brock took his second nap, then we went back to the park and had more fun (with better lighting, I might add). Then we went to the Tropical Sno place down the road and let Brock have his first shave ice. We topped off the evening with dinner at O'Charley's, compliments of my mom.

Now, on to the actual party. I've been planning for two or three months what I was going to do, not because it really required that much time but because I'm a big planner and an admitted Type A personality. With the help of a sweet little website known as Follow Me on Pinterest I was able to find all kinds of ideas and tips for the party. I decided I wanted to do the theme based on the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It's one of the books I have read to Brock since he was just a few weeks old, and he has really grown to like it. He loves the part where the caterpillar eats through all the fruit and he'll flip each little page to get to the next fruit. So I thought it would be a cute and easy theme to work with.

I looked for invitations to buy, and there were some you could order from Etsy, but none of them really looked like what I wanted because they were mostly generic versions of the hungry caterpillar and didn't look authentic. Plus they were a little too expensive. So I decided, as I usually do, that I was just going to make the invitations myself. I have found over the past few years that I really, really like making party invitations. I've done them for friends' bridal showers, lingerie showers, and baby showers that I've thrown. I wish I had taken pictures of all the ones I've made so I could show you here, but no luck. I only have this one that I did for my friend, Kerri's baby shower last year:

It's so much cheaper, I think, to make your own invitations, and you can personalize it and make it exactly the way you want it. I found a website (via Pinterest) with some genuine hungry caterpillar clipart that you could download for free, so I headed to Hobby Lobby and found the scrapbook papers I wanted and set to work. Using the free clipart, my scrapbook supplies, and my computer and printer, I came up with this little guy, and it only cost me about 25 cents an invitation since all I had to buy was the paper:

I wanted to have the party at Gilbert Stephenson Park because it is only like 2 minutes away from where we live, it would be free, and we wouldn't have 30 people in our house. You never know what kind of weather we'll have in March, so that was a frustration, and I was on every day for about a month before the party, with my fingers crossed that it wouldn't be rainy or cold (both of which it did end up being). We had a backup plan at my grandmother's apartment clubhouse, but I really wanted to have it at the park so all the cousins could play on the playground and not be bored.

My friend Kristen had saved the paper poms we made for Kerri's shower, so I borrowed them from her to use as decorations for the pavilion since the green, orange, and yellow colors all went pretty well with the Hungry Caterpillar theme. I won't post a picture of what they looked like hung up because I kind of ran out of time and couldn't hang them the way I really wanted to, so they weren't very fantastic-looking, but the picture I had planned in my head looked amazing. A side note, I saw at Party City that you could buy a pack of three pre-made paper poms for $6. Do not ever spend that much money on those! These are so easy to make, and depending on what size you wanted, you could make two or three for just $1 if you buy your tissue paper at the dollar store. Here's the link to a tutorial on how to make these, and this is what they look like up close.

I got orange, yellow, and green tablecloths, plates, napkins, and cups from the dollar store and found a cute polka-dot table cloth for the food table that matched the theme. I wanted to somehow display Brock's monthly pictures that we took for the first year, and I had seen some different styles of hanging banners on Pinterest. Then when I noticed I had extra invitation paper leftover, the idea came to mind to make a caterpillar banner. My only regret was that I didn't have a way to hang the banner up at the party because it was too windy and it would have fallen apart. So we just laid it out flat on the gift table.

I also had a ton of pictures that I had printed off that didn't have a home in any picture album or frame and were just sitting around so I thought I'd make use of those and put them on a cork board to display. This was fun for the people at the party who don't follow the blog (I know, it's shocking but true that even some of my family members don't!) and haven't seen most of those pictures before.

To add to the theme, I cut up all the fruits that are in the book and printed off little labels that quoted the book. I stuck the labels on little wooden dowels and used whole fruits to hold them in place, which looked pretty to me. These were Pinterest ideas and not my own.

I got some thumbprint cookies from a bakery down the road from the park, Sunshine Bakery Boutique. I wanted to do thumbprint cookies, one, because they went along with the polka-dot theme and, two, because I love thumbprint cookies more than it should be humanly possible to love thumbprint cookies (sometimes I go buy them just as a random treat for myself... which probably explains why I can't lose the 20 pounds I keep complaining about). I was going to put them all around the caterpillar cake as the dots from the book, but the caterpillar cake ended up being so amazing that I didn't even want to add anything to it. So we just set them aside on a plate by the book as extra decoration.

Since the hungry caterpillar turns into a butterfly at the end of the book, I figured the end of the party could be associated with a butterfly. Another Pinterest idea... I made little butterfly party favors with sour gummy worms, ziploc snack baggies, and clothes-pins. I forgot to take a picture of these at the party, but this was one that was left over that came back home with us. He lost his little antennae though. The others had tiny blue pipe cleaner antennae at the top of the clothes-pin. I also printed off hungry caterpillar coloring sheets for all the kids to take home. (Here's a link to the printable in case anyone else wants one.)

Finally, the pièce de résistance (which is just a fancy French phrase, meaning "the best part"). I had seen a cute caterpillar cupcake cake on Pinterest and asked my crafty and super talented mother-in-law if she thought she could possibly make one for the party. From my own personal experience with stuff I make, I try not to get too excited about how something is going to actually turn out looking because it usually ends up nothing like what I had in my head (remember what I said about the pom decorations up there?). And she had even texted me that day saying she was worried that it wasn't what I wanted. I think she was just trying to throw me off though because it was perfect! It looks just like the Hungry Caterpillar. She put black sprinkles on the top cupcakes to look like the caterpillar fuzz. She made edible chocolate antennae and chocolate feet and even died some coconut green to look like the grass. The caterpillar head was the "smash cake" for Brock to dig into (which was kind of anti-climactic because he only wanted to use a spoon). My one regret is that this was the only crappy picture I got of the cake! What's wrong with me?! I loved it though!

So that was Brock's first birthday, A Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday party. Other than the rainy, cold, and windy weather, I felt like it all turned out really well. I loved planning it and putting it together, and I look forward to many more fun birthday parties. Although one lesson I learned is that future parties for him will probably need to be indoors because I'm too much of a control freak to do outdoor parties in Spring weather.