Long Overdue ... and still waiting

Busy in Michigan and busy working on wedding invitations. Had a great weekend in Chicago for the Bachelorette Party and now looking forward to a 4th of July weekend at the cottage. The lakes, the sand, the beach, relaxing, and fun!

Long overdue update ... coming soon. Stay tuned!


Baby Sign Language

To sign or not to sign? Those are becoming increasingly common questions to new parents or parents to be these days. I'm truly amazed how the act of signing to babies has been such a "new" concept to many families. Back when I was a child, long and far ago, it really was not an issue or something of importance to new parents. Or, at least where I was from and the area where I grew up, no one signed to their babies.

During my pregnancy I received two books on Baby Sign Language. One as gift from my mom and another from my sister.

With barely any research and our littlest Chef approaching 4-months, I decided to give signing a try. At first, it was literally a try. Not only did our little cupcake need to learn the signs, my husband and I also had to learn sign language. This was a whole family process and we all learned together. Once I became a full stay-at-home mom I was able to be more consistent with the signs and she slowly began picking them up.

However, it was not easy. Is anything with little ones? I'm not talking about grueling out of breath hard, but the kind of hard that mentally makes you want to give up. I did not think I was making any progress and Little Chef wasn't picking up and reciprocating any of the signs.

I gave up ... temporarily.

After about a month and as she approached 7-months old, I tried again. This time I was more serious. I looked over all of my books, flashcards and purchased a sign language DVD. Consistency and repetition, right?

Well, right is right. Now at 15-months old, I can officially say that Ms. A is signing and doing very well indeed. She knows: eat, milk, more, sleep, binky, daddy, baby, ball, play, please, thank you, bathtime, drink, and a few more that I'm probably forgetting. We are working on: all done, water, mommy, and several more.

What was her secret? I'm not sure. I do think she picked up on the signs because she isn't talking much. She will say mommy and daddy with meaning, but her other words are simply baby babble, which I love, but makes actual communicating very difficult.

With Ava's signs and actions, she is able to semi-communicate with our family, which I love! For example, if she's hungry, she will walk over to her high chair and sign, "eat." If she is ready for a nap (still napping two times a day), she will find her bunny or blankie and sign, "sleep." So, it's working. Signing is truly working. Especially since we aren't getting many real words out of her yet. But, that's another story.

I also must admit that every now and then I will plunk her down in front of the television to watch her Baby Einstein DVD's - My First Signs and Baby Wordsworth. Baby Wordsworth is a little advanced in the signing for Ms. A, but we will still occasionally watch this as well. Most of the signs she has learned come directly from My First Signs and from watching the Iron Chef or myself sign directly to her. However, Ava will watch the Baby Einstein DVD's and sign along and mimic the children in the video. Watching her is quite entertaining and amusing.

So with our pediatricians recommendation and a few books from my mom and sister, I began to sign and it has been wonderful.

Here's an example of Ms. A doing her signs. Just remember, her signs have been adjusted to what she has interpreted at the sign. ;)


Happy Dad's Day!

To my beloved husband, my best friend, my favorite, my companion, my soul mate, my everything - Happy Dad's Day.

And, to the father's in our lives that made everything possible. We thank you for being you and for all you have done as well.

Finally, to all the other Dad's out there - Happy Father's Day to you, too.

Happy Dad's Day!


Updated Videos of Little A

These are mostly for the grandparents, but all can enjoy.

Can you tell she really wants a puppy? Maybe someday when she's a little older?

The Music Truck

The Chef Family lives within walking distance to both the elementary school and middle school. Tons of children walk to and from school each day. Great way to save gas and get kids a little more active. And, apparently, the ice cream truck thinks it's an automatic sale. So like clockwork, when the kids are walking home from school, the ice cream truck is driving around making his rounds, playing music and hoping kids will buy some ice cream.

In fact, we not only have one ice cream truck, but we have two - a traditional jeep type vehicle, with stickers and labels all over the side and then a hunter green Chrysler minivan with one label, music and a truck popped open. Oy vey, I don't think I'd ever buy ice cream from either one of them anyway.

The first time Ms. A heard the "music" she started dancing. And now, at least two times a day, she hears the ice cream truck s-l-o-w-l-y driving past our house. Rather than create a child that starts screaming and throws a fit because she can't get ice cream from the mobile ice cream truck, we've decided to just ignore the whole fact that the truck actually has ice cream and sweet treats readily available for purchase.

So from now on out, the ice cream truck will be referred to as the "Music Truck" and will forever be known as such.

This is going to be our little secret with Ms. A ... let's see how long we can actually keep it a secret.

Jeep ice cream truck

Ironically, as I was filming little A today ... the "Music Truck" drove by and all of our windows were open. Most kids go running towards the ice cream truck when they hear the music, but check out what Ms. A does when she hears it. She's adorable!


Fun in the Sun

A few busy days mixed in with a crazy schedule for the Iron Chef (IC) is what our life has been all about these last few days. I'm trying to gather items for our trip back to MI and spend time with IC when he is available and not traveling; however, we did manage to head to a local park for a new kind of adventure. Someone from my MOMs club was heading to Vancouver Lake Park and we decided to join. Thanks for the fun, Nikki! What a fun place in Vancouver. We will definitely be heading back there again sometime this summer.

I've mentioned before that she is really loving the bark at the parks. Well, the sand at this park brought a whole new dimension to having fun at the park. Ms. A started out clean. Crisp cotton white t ...

I was thoroughly impressed at her love for the sand. She was a little adventurous with the water and put her toes in just enough to get wet. And then progressively she became a scrumptious sand pie by the end of our trip. She was dirty from fingers to toes ... and then her little behind fell a few too many times. And her crisp tee ... finally became a sandy shirt. But, she had fun, and that's all that counts!

However, thank goodness for a change of clothes. The car ride would have otherwise been a very wet mess.

Another random trip for the week was a visit to Irving Park in Portland where we visited a few friends. 'A' was creating new sign language and making everyone laugh (as can be seen below). My crazy Garmin GPS brought me to this park in the most roundabout way so I toured almost the entire northern part of Portland via side roads. Quite entertaining and interesting to see the landmarks around the city even thought I wasn't planning on seeing much besides the highway. This was another great park and another way to blow off some energy for little Ms. A. She fell asleep in her carseat before we even reached Lloyd Center on our way home. Goal accomplished.


Brownie Points

Little Ms. A sure knows how to score brownie points. And, I'm not talking about the kind of points that you tally up to determine how many girl scout cookies you've sold. I'm talking about scoring brownie points to make your heart melt ...

The Iron Chef had his boss from CA in from town today and she totally swept him off his feet. She started giggling the moment he walked in the door and she wouldn't keep her eyes off of him. Maybe she thought he was just another grandpa ... I'm not sure ... but it was absolutely adorable! They read books together, she toured him around our house and played with a ball.

Quite the character with her facial expressions and charisma, I think the Chef Family will have a handful with 'A' when she's a little older. Oh my.


A Week w/ My Parents

A week of fun filled festivities. Our week was non-stop from morning to night and filled with kid friendly adventures for our littlest A. She loved every minute with her grandparents and cannot wait to see them again in 2 weeks.

Our week started off with a second "1st birthday party" celebration full of prizes. My parents were unable to attend A's 1st birthday so we had a belated celebration. She enjoyed the wrapping paper a little more than last time and was thrilled to add four more baby dolls to her growing collection (two are mini dolls for travel). You can only imagine the delight in her face.

A bit of sentiment for my blog as well. When I was a little girl, my dad built a wooden cradle for me. This cradle has been through the years and put many dolls into a sweet slumber night after night. As a surprise for not only me, but for little A, my dad took apart my cradle and repackaged it for A. Definitely brought a few tears to my eyes. To see my daughter play with the baby doll cradle that I loved and treasured so much as a child - and that my dad made for me - brings absolute delight to my face. 'A' enjoyed using her new Fisher-Price tool set to help grandpa put the cradle back together.

Is this possibly a little curl in her hair? The Iron Chef and I were planning to chop off her baby locks and even things up a little (at the hair salon), but the ends are starting to curl. My mom convinced me to keep it a little longer in case it does start to curl. This may be the only time she'll have a little "curl" to her hair. We shall see.

We went on a little adventure every single day. Our first trip included: Portland Saturday Market and Portland's Rose Festival and then in Vancouver, we went to the Farmer's Market and visited the historic Ft. Vancouver. The fort was the equivalent of the biggest open play area Ms. A has enjoyed and beautiful gardens that caught her attention as well. She loves the outdoors and gardening. Who knew? Good thing I only spent money on a few marigolds and pansies for my potted plants this year because A is quite a helper and loves to pick bouquets for her mommy. How nice! Actually, the fort was quite nice and we learned a bit of history about the Vancouver area. As for the farmer's markets, not so nice. Ms. A had a little meltdown. Too many people she didn't know and didn't like was not the equation of a relaxing afternoon that she was looking for. Needless to say, we didn't stay long.

We also headed out to drive along the scenic highway in Portland, which is absolutely gorgeous. The Chef Family has already been to this area several times this year already, but it never gets old. The natural beauty of the area simply cannot be ignored. We also ventured to a few new falls this time and hiked a few new trails as well. Thank goodness for our backpack for little A because she definitely wouldn't have made it walking.

Another mini-adventure day was to head out to the zoo. Bad, bad, bad decision. Being the last week of school AND $2 Tuesday at the zoo meant hundreds of kids all over the place. We found a parking spot (after a 20 minute traffic jam into the zoo) and stood in line only to watch bus after bus pull into the parking lots. After 20 minutes in line and barely seeing the ticket booth, we decided to go with plan B - the Children's Museum. Actually, we didn't plan on going there at all, but were willing to take the chance. We thought 'A' would be too young for the museum, but she had a blast!

'A' had a meltdown after this picture (see below) because she didn't want to leave the baby dolls. :( This was the imaginary hospital and we put the babies to "sleep" back in the nursery. That was definitely not what she wanted to do. We're learning to share babies. Although she's not too good at it yet.

We also visited the International Rose Test Garden in Portland's Washington Park. This park is absolutely amazing this time of year with 10,000 roses! And apparently rhododendrons as well. Mostly roses, but tons of beautiful foliage and greenery as well. Just plain and simply one of the prettiest places in the city.

Goof-ball, goofy and goofier! Bunnies by the Bay has one of the best blankies for babies on the market. This bunny was given as a gift to 'A' when she was born and has become an absolute favorite. The bunny is silky on one side and soft on the other and (obviously) has a bunny on top. And, as can be seen, she enjoys this blanket for more than just naptime soothing.

And this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of BOB! Yes, this is a favorite addition to the Chef Family and our day to day activities just wouldn't be the same without this stroller. 'A' and I use this stroller almost every day. Whether at the park or for a run, we've definitely put the miles on this one.


Polka dot Pink

Pink polka dots and a red jungle gym.

The faces and joys of our babe. And, Harmony Ridge, our favorite park. She is definitely getting a little mind of her own as well. The faces of this child are endless. Endlessly amusing and entertaining as well.

She has also turned into our Bark Babe. I don't mean the kind of barking that a dog does, but the kind of bark that is on the ground at parks. We've already had several rounds of slivers in her little hands and fingers, but somehow I just can't keep her out of the stuff. It's tempting. I guess I'd say bark is her equivalent of chocolate to me. Make sense?

And the sweetest of them all? This picture below. Ms. A LOVE LOVE LOVES to sit on the front door. Although not close to a seat, the ledge is perfect for her round pumpkin butt and she'll sit here for hours. I purposefully go outside and read the mail and sort through bills outside on the front porch so she can sit on her "chair" for a few minutes. She has a routine somewhat like a dog. She'll sometimes do a circle, and then start walking backwards with her butt already halfway sitting down. Then finally, she'll plop down. It's adorable.

Jungle Bathroom

Once again, I'm participating in Show Us Where You Live Friday mostly because friends that have visited our house haven't seen the new bathroom decorations for Ms. A's bathroom.

Nothing fancy, just a simple kids bathroom.

This bathroom re-do is the latest edition to our house. Actually it isn't much of a re-do, just changing our decorations. We did add white wooden trim to this bathroom because when we moved into this house, this bathroom had plastic industrial trim that was a must GO!

This is our littlest A's bathroom and she absolutely loves it! She will search around the bathroom for the animals and point to them in laughter. The decorations were all purchased from Target and have made a great addition to the bathroom that will be used for our little one and for our guests. We (I guess I should just say I) hunted around for bathroom items and truly wanted something simple that would flow better with the rest of the decorations in our house. However, my husband was set on a "fun" bathroom so we compromised and found a nice kid friendly theme. The prints are helping A learn hear animals and animal noises. She will point to the animals and hunt around the shower curtain for the turtle. It's absolutely adorable and I am glad I went with such a fun theme. I'm definitely happy that she loves to be in her bathroom. And added bonus, if our next baby (when the time comes) is a boy, this bathroom is gender neutral!

We absolutely lucked out to find 4 matching prints at Target. Back when I was searching for nursery ideas I pondered the idea of a jungle nursery and tried to find all 4 of these prints, but didn't have any luck. When we found these matching prints all in one Target, we knew we had to make a jungle themed bathroom.

The bathroom accessories. Clay-like and adorable.

The trash bin.

Matching towels. I'm on the hunt for similar white towels. I've tried Home Goods and TJMaxx thus far, but am still on the hunt!

The famous turtle that A has to find in her bathroom ... of course there is only one on the entire shower curtain!

I am trying to find a little wooden stool for the bathroom as well. I'm going to paint it to match the bathroom theme and 'A' can use it to wash her hands and brush her teeth when she's a little older.



I will post an update today. Busy busy busy two weeks. Friends and family in town caused lack of time on internet. Stay tuned ...


Catch-all Office - Where you Live Fridays!

For the past several weeks, Kelly Stamps from Kelly's Korner has been hosting Show Us Where You Live Fridays!

This week is offices. The Iron Chef and I have contemplated turning our downstairs living room into an office so I'm excited to look at everyone's "offices" to get great ideas!

This is kind of our catch-all room, our 4th bedroom, our exercise room, our TV room, and most importantly, our office. It's a little light on the "office" aspect, but this is definitely the room that stores our printer and laptop and all the supplies that usually come with an office.

Welcome ... I've open to ideas and suggestions on how to make this room more cohesive!

Most of the furniture is pretty hodge-podgey, but the Iron Chef just took on a project to make everything black. At least it would all coordinate. The coffee table is from Goodwill (can we say thank you for bargains) and the little table next to the office was made in 8th grade woodshop class. And if you're thinking woodshop class, yes, I took "woods" for 2 semesters. That class was definitely one of the classes to take at Mona Shores Middle School and I have a solid wood piece of furniture as a reminder of my 8th grade talents.

I have two favorites in this room - our elliptical and our bookshelves in our closet. The elliptical is great to workout while Little A is sleeping or napping and I can't leave the house and our closet holds our sense of organization of paperwork in this house.

My husband recently built these shelves in our closet and they hold all of our office supplies. Two organizational tips I have (that quite frankly help me keep my paperwork organized in an efficient way) include accordion file folders and 3-ring binders full of sheet protectors. By dedicating one accordion file for each year, it makes filing paperwork and storing paperwork easy year after year. When the year is complete, I simply purchase a new accordion file and start the process over. In regards to the sheet protectors and 3-ring binders - this is the best possibly way to keep track and manage all of the paperwork that comes along with a house. From manuals from appliances to warranty information and paint samples, by simply placing everything into sheet protectors and into a binder, it's a great way to store and organize simple paperwork.

The Chicago Cubs are a baseball team favorite in this house and we simply couldn't go without a picture of Wrigley Field.

Multnomah Falls

The Iron Chef's college roommate was in town this week visiting, and what a better way to enjoy the scenery of the Pacific Northwest than a trip to Multnomah Falls (the nation's second largest year-round waterfall). A quick trip after work and before the sunset, but well worth it. And yes, this is already our 2nd trip to the falls this year and will soon be our 3rd when my parents are in town this week.

If you take a closer look you can see the beautiful rainbow in the middle of the falls. The light and the water were just perfect!

Littlest 'A' has a cute rocking chair but decided that a bin was much better for reading. Apparently sitting high on books in a small bin not usually used for books was a bit more comfortable. I'm not sure how, it just must have been. And, her book recommendation of the week is just an author - Sandra Boynton. We love her cute, children's books and have read almost all of them.

I know I've already posted a picture of the flowers from my backyard, but I decided to cut a few and put them in vases. First of all, if anyone has any tips on arranging flowers, please let me know. I'm horrible! But, I was able to make 3 lovely arrangements, including one for our guest bedroom so all our guests can sleep soundly with the scent of fresh flowers on their bedside.


Blast from the Past

This picture truly puts life into perspective. Life in regards to how fast your love ones grow up. This was just over a year ago. Ava has changed so much. She has changed our lives so much, but all for the better. The Iron Chef and I have so much love to give. Life without children was definitely the past and we cannot imagine our lives any different than what it is today. We love her more and more everyday.