Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nicole & Dusty Come Over for Dinner

Sunday evening, Andy's cousin, Nicole Trap, and her boyfriend, Dusty came over for dinner. It's really nice to have some family in the area. Nicole's dad and Andy's dad are 1st cousins and since that generation all stayed in Wash Pa where they were raised, Andy and Nicole grew up together. Andy made an amazing dinner of BBQ pork chops in the slow cooker, his famous red potatoes, and his infamous apple crisp for dessert. We haven't seen them since they babysat for us around our anniversary, so it was good to have them come over. Since football is getting ready to kick off, we imagine we will see a lot more of them when we get blacked out of Steelers games and have to go to a Steelers bar. Dusty is a Green Bay fan although he is from this area. The Super Bowl was interesting to say the least.

Dusty and Andy are very competitive when it comes to video game football. They play every time they get together. Andy is the type that HAS to win. Because of that, I always root for Dusty. He texted Andy the night before he came over and said that he wanted to leave our house with a 1-2 record and not 0-3 since he lost the first two matchups. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards for Dus
ty, although the games are never a blowout.

Brady was amusing himself playing with Nicole's flip flops. She would put his feet in them and he would shuffle around in them until they fell off. It was really funny and reminded me of when little girls try to w
alk around in their mom's high heels. He loved it and every time they fell off, he would bring them back to Nicole, sit in her lap, and let her put them back on.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Biltmore Estate

Yesterday, we made the decision to visit the Biltmore Estate, located about two hours north of us in Asheville, NC. Biltmore Estate is the summer home of the Vanderbilts and is the largest private home in the United States with the house featuring 175,000 square feet (250 rooms) of interior and 8,000 acres of land (initially 125,000 acres). We really had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the front gate and were amazed that the drive was 3 miles long to reach the house. You can't see the house from the parking lots and there is a shuttle to take you to the house because it's still a decent bit from the lots.

When we finally came into view of the house from the shuttle, it took our breath away. It's modeled in the European chateau fashion and I have never seen anything like it before. I look forward to seeing many castles and houses like it in Europe. The house is only one of the many attractions at the estate. There are vast gardens, lakes, trails, an entire village 3 miles from the house, and an elaborate in
n (pictured below and looks like a chateau from the other side).

Admission to the estate includes a self-gui
ded tour of the house (unfortunately no pictures allowed inside the house) and I couldn't wait to dive right in. They have preserved many rooms to be exactly as they were when George Washington Vanderbilt II completed the house in 1895. The first floor included the entrance hall, the winter garden, billiard room, banquet hall (complete with organ loft), breakfast room, salon,music room, tapestry gallery, and the library (which could easily fit our 1600 square foot home inside of it). These are the types of rooms that are always described in historical romances and until now I could never really picture them. I've always wanted to travel back in time to Victorian England and it was like I got that chance.

We went up the sweeping spiral grand staircase to the second floor which featured the family's private rooms. The preserved rooms that we were able to view were the second floor living hall, Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom, the oak
sitting room, and Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom. I had to explain to Andy that it was common in that time for the husband and wife to have separate bedrooms.

The third floor contained the guest quarters. The ro
oms we viewed included the third floor living hall, the third floor hallway, the guest bedrooms named the Damask room, the Claude room, the Tyrolean chimney room, Louis XV room (where are all the Vanderbilt children and grandchildren were born), and the Louis XV bathroom (one of 43 bathrooms in the house). In addition to each room in the house being beautifully furnished and decorated, the ceilings in ever room were elaborately molded and there was crown molding around each room. Every room had different designs and the details were amazing. It's no wonder that the house took 6 years to complete.

Once we were done with the first three floors, we took the Grand Staircase (pictured from outside above) down the first floor and headed to the basement. Once we reached the basement, we walked down an amazing and long stone hallway. This led us to th
e Halloween room (an original storage room converted to show pictures and descriptions of the house's construction), the bowling alley, the dressing rooms used for when guests would come to swim (there were easily 15 side by side), the indoor swimming pool, and the gymnasium.

Also located in the basement were the servants quarters. This area included a vegetable pantry, walk-in refrigerators (the side of modern r
efrigerators), servants' bedrooms (the size of modern bedrooms that aren't the master bedroom), pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, main kitchen, kitchen pantry, servants' dining room, service entrance, work rooms, brown laundry (hand washables), main laundry (they had a washing machine), and drying room.

We then took a set of stairs to a corner of the first floor that served as the bachelors' wing. This wing included a smoking room for after dinner, a gun room, and the bachelors' wing hallway. Although we saw so much of the house, there were more than 3 floors above ground and the only floor we saw in its entirety was the ground floor. Of the second and third floors, we only saw 1/3 of what is there. The Vanderbilts still own the house, though it's been open to the public since 1930 and a permanently opened as a house museum in 1956.

Once our tour of the house was complete, we decided to take a look at the gardens. The gardens cover several acres, so it's near impossible to walk it all (especially with a toddler), so we decided to walk to short distance to the walled garden and the conservatory. As we were heading that way, I mentioned to Andy that when we were at Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston, they said they get booked solid for weddings and that this estate would be a gorgeous place to get married. Not long after I said that, we saw what looked like a groom in a tuxedo near the conservatory. On our way back to the house area, sure enough, we saw the bride posing for pictures.

The last thing we did was check out the shops. I am
a sucker for Christmas stores and of course they had one. I must not be the only one who loves those stores because there was a dad in there telling his kids to hurry up past it before their mom noticed it. I found a beautiful snowflake ornament with the year and the house on it. Andy also immediately noticed several crystal ornament trees. There was one that I really liked and Andy told me to get it, which is very unlike him. I'll be very excited to display it this Christmas.

Andy being the former film major, kept saying that he recognized the house and initially thought it might be Wayne manor from the Christopher Nolan series of Batman movies. I told him I didn't think so, and he looked it up and the house was used as the house in Richie Rich starring Macaulay Culkin when we were kids. The highlight of Andy's day was when he claimed he saw actor Damian Lewis from the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers." The man was wearing sunglasses and Andy said he got several good looks at him and is convinced it was him. Later he looked him up and said that the actor is married to the actress who played Draco Malfoy's mom in the Harry Potter movies and I think I would have noticed if the woman he was with was her.

We caught the shuttle to the parking lot and headed out. We didn't realize how vast the estate was until we were leaving. It took us 30 minutes to get out!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Brady's 18 Month Stats

Brady is now 18 months, which classifies him officially as a toddler. Because he's been mobile for so long, we've been thinking of him as a toddler for months. When we were in Pittsburgh a month ago, my PopPop nicknamed him Road Runner. It's very appropriate because when he runs, his legs move so fast it's a blur and sometimes his body can't keep up with how fast his legs are moving and he falls flat.

Brady had his doctor's appointment this afternoon a
nd here is how he measured up:

Length: 32.5 inches (50th percentile)
Weight: 24lb 10oz (35th percentile)

His height is starting to tapper off and his weight i
s starting to get better, so he's becoming more proportionate. He still has only reached the bottom weight of most 12-18 month clothes, but I'm very happy with his progress. He gained 2lb 4oz in the last 3 months and that's the most he's gained between visits since between 9 and 12 months. At 15 months, he was in the 20th percentile for weight, so we're slowly improving.

Brady can now say the following words:

1. No
2. Uh oh
3. Done
4. Puppy
5. Dada
6. Mama
7. Book
8. Ball
9. Bye
10. Hi
11. Hey
12. Bad
13. Boy
14. Thank you
15. Baby
16. All
17. Gone
18. Yum
19. Bear
20. Bum bum
21. Football
22. Ok

He can correctly identify:

Body parts:

His male piece of anatomy

Colors: Purple


Monkey (can also make the sound)
Mickey Mouse
Scout (his learning puppy)
Pooh Bear
Gymbo the Clown


Sippy cup
High chair
His arm chair
His car
Stars (he opens and closes his hands to sign)
Remote control

He can also understand the following objects/comman

Diaper change
Time for bed
Hold hands
Bye bye
Eskimo kiss

Recently, he was watching an episode of Mickey M
ouse Clubhouse and they were asking the kids to identify numbers 1-5 on ducks. They had two ducks with different numbers and would ask them to find the one with the 1 on it, 2, etc. Brady correctly pointed to each correct number on the ducks, 1 thru 5. It was really cool.

Brady loves to dance and is obsessed with turnin
g on the ceiling fans in any room that he's in. He can turn them on using a wall switch as long as one of us lifts him up high enough. Because he can understand so many words and can identify many objects, when we ask him to bring us something, he will search until he finds it and then bring it to us. He can even distinguish the difference between my phone and Andy's.

He is super attached to Andy, to the point where when Andy gets home, Brady won't let him out of his sight. He follows him into the bedroom to change and even insists on being in the bathroom with him. This become pro
blematic when Andy is making dinner because Brady is constantly underfoot and it's dangerous with the stove and oven on. He hangs on the oven door handle and opens it, so he has to be placed into his gate when Andy is cooking for safety.

Brady's quickly learning to imitate our actions. He will pick up our phones and hold them up to his ear, then hand them over so we can talk. While staying at my parents' house a few weeks back, when he wanted to leave, h
e would pick up my mom's purse, sling it over his shoulder and say bye, while waving and heading to the door. He watches me brush my teeth and took one of my hairbrushes and tried to imitate brushing his teeth with it, but I had to catch him before he ended up with a mouthful of hair. When he gets up in the morning, he grabs the remote and brings it to me to turn on the TV. When a show comes to a close, he says bye, then grabs the remote to change the channel. He also uses the box of the Wii Fit as a briefcase and carries it around.

He's pretty good at letting us know what he wants. He will go up to the fridge and try to pull the handle when he wants a drink. He can sign "more" and "eat" and will let us know when he is hungry. He also tells us "done" when he's done and that's final. If we even try to get him to take one more bite, he gets very mad.

We got him a Leap Frog toy that's called My Pal Scout for Christmas and have brought it out in the last few months. It is a puppy that links up to the computer, so it knows Brady's name and favorite things and it talks to him. It also plays nighttime music, so he sleeps with it. When it's time for bed, he has a nice routine that he knows. He gets his pj's on, then goes out into the living room to find Scout, then gives each one of us a kiss. He immediately heads into his room and we put him in his crib.

His latest trick is Eskimo kisses and he loves them! He will climb up on us and rub his nose against our noses. It's too cute!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Just Like Daddy

Andy got the idea in his head over the weekend that he wanted to put his hair wax in Brady's hair and style it. I know how hard the wax is to get out and I knew Brady would want to touch his hair, so I agreed to let him do it right before a bath so he could see how it would look, take a few pics, then wash it right out. Of course, since it's really hard to get out, two baths later, it's finally all out. It was funny, but not a good look for Brady at this point. He looks the best when it's about midway between haircuts (he gets one every 3 months) and it gets curly in the back.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Future Gamer

Brady has always been interested in the remotes around the house. He is especially interested in Andy's game system controllers because they have joy sticks and different types of buttons. Whenever Andy pulls one out to control Netflix on the PS3, Brady makes a bee line for it. Brady came up to Andy last night asking for food and when Andy got up to head into the kitchen, Brady climbed up onto the couch and stole the controller. He's very sneaky. This morning, he tried to take the controller again, so Andy decided to give him one of the controllers to one of the systems we weren't using. He was very happy. Even as a very small baby, Andy kept Brady close to the controls ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Family Portraits 2011

Every year (since last year), we get our family portraits done in August. Last year, Brady was 6 months and we did the formal shots in blue, then did Penn State and Pitt shots. This year, we went with seafoam green (anyone who's seen our wedding shots knows we like seafoam), and then did some solo shots of Brady in his Steelers gear. We have to be careful with the colors we choose because of Andy's coloring, so it's pretty safe to say I'll never put Andy in red, but if I wear red, I would put him in black. Brady did much better than the last shoot of him in the sailor suit. There was no crying and since we did the family shots first, he got comfortable. He did get a little crazy when it was just him and I swear he was going to tear the background down. Below, I'll put a few of this years pictures and some from last year to compare. The rest will be on Facebook tomorrow.

Last year's formal shot

Penn State

Pitt Family

Monday, August 15, 2011

"You Wanna Hit It?"

Andy's Uncle Buks loves to go to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. Whenever he asks one of the boys if they want to go with him, he says, "You wanna hit it?" They know it's code for the buffet. We've gone with him several times in Pittsburgh before we moved and Andy's brother, Pat, always tells us when Buks asks him to go.

We have a Pizza Hut less than a mile from
our house, so we decided a while back that one day we would go to lunch there. Since it's only offered during the week, we would have to meet Andy there on his lunch break, something we only get to do occasionally now that we live in SC. Today was that day.

Brady usually doesn't get to see Andy until he gets home from work, so he was pleasantly surprised when he was there to meet us. Only problem was that whenever Andy tried to go up to the buffet, Brady would have a complete meltdown because he thought Andy was leaving. This meant I had to get Andy's food, which wasn't a big deal. Brady ate at least one piece of pizza and a good portion of a bread stick. He even ate some shredded cheese Andy brought ba
ck from the salad bar. It was really nice to get out and have a nice lunch as a family.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Healthy Eater

Andy and I weren't the thinnest kids in the world and as both of us are on weight watchers to help us lose weight, we have no idea where our skinny little boy came from. He weighs just under 24lbs and is a week away from turning 18 months, which would put him around the 25th percentile. He loves fruit and veggies and often his snack consists of grapes and cheese. When we go out and get him a kids meal in a restaurant, it always come with a side of broccoli and a fruit. When I put his chicken and pieces of broccoli and fruit in front of him, he will always choose the fruit and veggies over the meat and ask for more before he finishes his chicken. Just last night, when he had both green beans and chicken on his tray, he only chose to eat the green beans.

This past Tuesday, I was having back problems which prevented me from going to a Mom's Night Out with my mom's group. We were going to meet at someone's house and play board games. I had bought a veggie tray to take and when I didn't go, we broke it open to eat ourselves. It had peppers, snow peas, tomatoes, celery, broccoli, and baby carrots. Brady grabbed a stick of celery and went to town. He only has about 6 teeth so we figured he'd just gnaw on it and not really get any pieces off the stick. We were wrong. He broke it up really nicely. Hopefully his love for fruits and veggies will continue through his childhood and into adulthood.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Brady Tries Gymnastics

Today we went for a trial class at a gymnastics studio in Greenville. This was something I wanted to try with Brady since he's so active and does well with the climbing at Gymboree. The class was for walkers up to 3 years old and required parent participation. There were four other kids in the class and they were all at least a year older than Brady.

The first part was stretching and then going around a little obstacle course. There was a small trampoline, which Brady enjoyed, and he was even able to hold onto a bar and lift his feet up onto the same bar and hang like that. They had wedges that were for forward rolls, but Brady just wanted to run up and down them like at Gymboree. We tried getting him to do a roll, but he wouldn't cooperate.

The next part took us out into the main arena, where there was a long trampoline, which the kids were supposed to bounce down with their hands at their sides. Brady just wanted to run down it to the end. He's so fast now that I have to run to keep up with him. It wasn't long before I was sweating. They had a vertical ladder and he climbed all the way up, which was about 6 feet and that's something he learned from Gymboree.

The final activity was going over to this pit filled with large foam squares. The older kids use it when practicing new vaults so that they don't get hurt. They set up a slide for the little kids and they would slide down into the pit. It very much reminded me of the scene from A Christmas Story where they go down the slide after visiting Santa and are immediately stopped by fluff. Brady thought it was funny, but he wasn't able to get over to the side himself, so I had to go in after him every time. It was almost like quick sand because the squares are constantly moving, which makes it hard for you to get to the edge and even harder to pull yourself out.

One of the other moms was saying that her daughter wasn't grasping things until she turned about 2 1/2 and there was a 2 year old there who just wanted to run around like Brady. Since Brady is still young, we decided that we'll wait for a bit before signing up for something long term. By the time we get back from Germany, he will be much better at communicating and following directions, so that might be a good time to get him started again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun with Links

Most of you with kids know about the packages of links they sell to help you attach toys to car seats. It's been almost a year since Brady was in his carrier car seat where we would use them, but he still loves to play with them. He chews on them when he wants to teeth and then we play around with them. When my mom was visiting, he wanted her to put them on his wrists and wanted as many as we could fit them on. When he had several on each wrist, it reminded me of bangles when we were kids. Maybe he's channeling the 80s through us, who knows? The other day, Andy was messing around with him and thought it would be funny to hook them on his ears to make it look like earrings. He put up to three on each ear. It was funny to watch because Brady would pull one off, then want us to put it right back on. Who would have thought that baby toys would still be amusing, but they are.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Wave Pool & Ichiban

While we were in Pittsburgh, we thought it would be nice to go to the wave pool one day. It's pretty much the only public pool in the western part of Pittsburgh, so it's usually a mob scene. We had plans almost every single day we were home and when it came to the free day to hit the pool it was overcast with highs in the high 70s, which to us feels cold. We were going to lunch at Eat N Park and took our pool stuff in case it felt warm enough when we were done eating. It turned out that it was warm enough, even though it was still overcast. Because of this, it was probably the least crowded I've ever seen it there. This was really good for us because Brady wouldn't get knocked down by a never-ending wall of people in the water.

Brady loved the ocean, so we figured the wave pool would be a hit and we were right. The way it works is a bell rings signalling the start of the waves and then the wave cycle goes for about 15 minutes then it's calm for 15 minutes bef
ore it starts all over again. We happened to get to the water in the middle of a wave cycle. Brady was laughing hysterically and loving that he was getting knocked down by the waves. He would get up and go where they would hit him in the chest so he could get pushed down onto his belly. The only catch was that the floor is more slick than our normal pool, so when he would start to run, he would slip and fall down. When the waves stopped, he was not too happy about it and all he wanted to do was go out as far as he could. We figured he would stop when it got too high, but he wanted to keep going so he would be deep enough to swim. Crazy baby.

That night was also our last night before ou
r return to South Carolina, so we met my dad after work at Ichiban, a hibachi restaurant. This is a rare treat for us and it seems we go right before every move. We went right before leaving for Michigan (Brady at 5 months), before leaving for SC (11 months), and then again before we head back to SC (17 months). If we weren't so lucky with Bosch letting us stay in the same location for a whole year, with Andy switching positions 6 months in, we would be moving again right now. Hard to imagine, since we're already dreading the moving and packing process around Christmas. Brady was still finishing the last of his baby food the last time we went and he had only 1 tooth poking through. This time, he was more than ready to eat. We didn't get him a meal, since we usually get more food than we can eat. I forgot to tell the waitress that I wanted steamed rice instead of the fried rice they make on the hibachi until the chef was out, so there was an extra portion and he gave it to Brady. He ate the whole thing and wanted more! He was intrigued by the fire they do on the hibachi the last two times, but this time, he was a little more concerned. He didn't cry, but he was definitely moving back. All in all, a great trip home. We'll be heading back in October (by plane this time since it's cheaper with gas prices) and excited to see Pitt football in action!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Phipps Conservatory

While we were in Pittsburgh, we decided that one day we would go into Oakland and visit Phipps Conservatory. It's situated between the campuses of Pitt and CMU and is somewhere that I've been going to since I was younger than Brady. It's beautiful even from the outside, so it was one of the many locations we used as the backdrop for our wedding pictures since it's a stone's throw from Heinz Chapel.

The theme this summer was sustainable gardens. T
his basically meant recycled items being used as part of the overall greenery. One of the most beautiful rooms had models dressed entirely out of greenery. There were so many cool rooms and the pictures speak for themselves.

Four years ago, the show was Gardens of Glass and it
featured all blown glass pieces depicting flowers. It was hands down the best show I've ever seen there and Phipps retained several pieces that are still inside the greenhouse. They're pictured below.

On the way home, we had quite a bit of trouble
because of roads closed for filming of The Dark Knight Rises. Bigelow Blvd in front of the Cathedral of Learning was completely closed off and filled with movie trailers. So we went another way that took us past Heinz Chapel and it was backed up and we noticed there were people and police everywhere. We looked and they had Fifth Ave closed off in front of the Mellon Institute (another wedding shoot location) and were filming! It was so cool and when my mom and I went to see Harry Potter the other night, we saw the first trailer and it was obvious they were still filming because there were no location shots. There was also a trailer for a movie called Abducted with Taylor Lautner that's also in Pittsburgh. Very cool.