In the blink of an eye…five (months)!

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GOODness, is she FIVE MONTHS already?

We blinked (ugh!) and another month has passed.

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Here’s a few bullet points so I don’t forget my focus here:

  • Her dang teeth are starting to really give Ellie some drama. Tooth #1 that I wrote about last month is JUST NOW poking through, but two more teeth have started their push since the last time we updated. So yes, poor girl is dealing with three teeth eruptions!
  • Due to above toothy drama, my formerly super snoozy gal has been having more restless sleep. As a result, she’s a bit crankier (understandably) through the day, and prefers to nap in a carrier (rather than alone in her bassinet or crib), and does NOT like to sit – let her go on her tummy, or stand her up!
  • Otherwise, no other issues!!

This month, we had her 4.5-ish month checkup, and she came in at 50% in height and weight (14.14 lb, 24.75 in), and got her immunizations. She had her first mild fever, and had her first dose of children’s Tylonel, too.

Additionally – and this is just a vanity update – but poor thing has been losing a lot of her baby hair. Although I know it’s just a phase, Abby never did lose any of her hair (other than the rubbed off bald spot from back sleeping), so I am a little thrown off as Ellie’s baby little tuft of hair keeps shrinking!!

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Ellie looking out!

Other stuff? I got a new baby carrier, the Lillebaby Complete Airflow (not an ad, just for reference!) which, ironically, was the first one I ever got for Abby, but she didn’t really ever fit well in it/like it – but when I found a great deal on them, I decided to try it with Ellie, since she seemed like she might be interested in facing forward – and lo and behold, she definitely does! It’s become our “car” carrier, so we use it out and about, with errands, school drop offs, shopping, etc. It’s also nice to be able to switch her around in seconds for different situations.

Another update: as I mentioned last month, Abby’s been attending day camp two times a week, which has given me more time with Ellie – which will definitely be carrying on through the school year, as we officially enrolled Abby in preschool starting in August! She’ll be attending M-W-F, 9 AM to 1 PM, so I’m on the lookout for some fun activities to do with Ellie. It’ll be nice to have that time, and I am looking to really get into more of a routine then, with the necessity of a more regimented schedule.

But back to Ellie…

She continues to just be the snuggliest little gal, and I am so thankful to have her. ❤

 

Ellie is 4 Months!

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Jelly Belly Ellie <3!

Just one day late this time, whoo!

Now, I must admit I was going to write this on one time yesterday, but as I reviewed the check-in post from last month, not much has changed. Ellie is still a sweet tempered baby, always up for a snuggly nap, and just a delightful little person to be around. Her fussy periods are short, and her smiles are simply the best.

Here are a few notable things, otherwise:

  • Her first tooth (an incisor, on the top!) is just about to erupt. This is causing more drooling, and making her spit up a bit more, but it doesn’t seem to bother her as much as it appears (based on her soggy bibs and shirts).
  • She LOVES “standing” – with a lot of support, of course, but when she gets a little irritated with sitting, just “stand” her up and her smile appears!
  • Hearing (and seemingly, identifying) voices makes her giggle and grin.
  • Today, she had her first pool experience! It was just about 5-10 minutes, and daddy just held her up, but she didn’t seem to dislike it.
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In the pool with dad!

We’ve recently had a bit more “solo” bonding time, as Abby started attending 2 day a week summer day camp from 9 AM to 2 PM (if I get some free time again soon, I’ll share that experience – but in short – she LOVES “school!”).

While our time together hasn’t been particularly exciting (we either run errands, or do chores at home), it’s kind of peaceful. If we continue to have Abby attend “school,” I’ll probably look into some “mommy and me” type experiences that I can do with just Ellie.

Overall, I am just so thankful that this sweet girl came into our lives – and she had such great timing, too. I have to laugh a bit when I think of how miserable I felt (nausea and general ickiness) while I was pregnant with her…maybe it was just to contrast with what was to come: just pure happiness <3.

Love you little Elle Belle!

Happy 3 Months, Ellie!

IMG_9641Again, belated – sorry, second child!

I realllllllllllllllly have to admit, I am not sure how many of these monthly updates I will remember to write, but seeing as I have a spare few minutes, I thought I’d do a quick check in!

On Monday, Ellie turned three months. I don’t know how this happened. Wasn’t she just born? Oh my.

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She’s used to not having her own space 😉

Anyway, she continues to be a wonderful, wonderful baby – the kind that make you think, “hey, this is not bad at all!” – until you remember that she will, before you know it, become a toddler. Haha! But really, she is just the best – she is a good eater, a good sleeper, and only fussy for very short periods.

Other updates of note:

  • She’s upgraded to a convertible car seat, thanks to a great sale at Target. Bucket seat, no more!
  • She did great on her first trip to Walt Disney World – and if her older sister gets her way, she’ll be on track to many more visits before her first birthday.
  • She will FINALLY be getting her own room in the next few weeks, as we do some rearranging of rooms in the house. I am excited to decorate for her! Of course, I plan to keep her in our room for a bit longer in her bassinet, but she will finally get her own space (until now, her dresser and crib were in our room, too).

Well, that’s about it – I am pushing it with both littles being asleep, so until next month… ❤

Top 5 Tips for taking a Toddler and Infant to Walt Disney World

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The gang’s all here!

A week ago, I packed up the car and headed North to Orlando for a fun, 2-night and 3-day trip to Walt Disney World with Abby and Ellie…yup, Abby and Ellie.

Due to a last-minute training added to his schedule, hubs was out for this trip, but instead of rescheduling, we decided to go on ahead. I’d taken Abby plenty of times solo in the past (in fact, I counted: this was her 12th trip!) and I had some fun friend-meetups scheduled, so I wasn’t stressed about it.

To plan this trip, I employed my usual philosophy of sticking to a general theme (this one was all about meeting characters!), minimally scheduling (so as not to rush too much), and taking breaks (in both forms of returning to resort room for scheduled naps, or taking downtime in the park).

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Love those monorails!

We were staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort (OKW), and though we had the car, we mostly utilized Disney Transportation – not only for the ease of it, but because Abby LOVES it all (busses, monorails, boats) which makes it its own attraction. However, we did drive to Epcot (since our room wasn’t ready yet, and we had taken a short lunch break in Celebration after the two hour drive, so we were refreshed) on Day 1, and to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the DVC Moonlight Magic Event on Day 2, since it was so late at night and I was banking on sleeping children…but more on that later.

 

 

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Princess Storybook Dining

I wasn’t planning on any sit-down dining for this trip (we had a one-bedroom booked at OKW, and I brought some food), but when I did a quick check that Monday morning before the drive and saw an early dinner opening at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, I sprung for it (So, that’s my Tip #1 – check for dining reservations last minute, you never know what might show up – plus, with littles, who knows how their interests might change during the course of that 180 day booking window, hah!) and believe it or not, it was my first experience there too – and we LOVED it!

 

With two under three in tow, our bill was super reasonable for Disney standards, and even better since we had the opportunity to meet so many princesses (~$65/adult, and that was all I had to pay). While I had read mixed reviews on the food, I absolutely enjoyed my main dish (salmon duo), loved the cold appetizer buffet/starters, and was blown away by the tasty desserts (you receive an plate of three yummy sweets – chocolate mousse, apple cake, and rice pudding).

So, Tip #2 – and this might sound counterintuitive, but I learned this even as a VIP Tour Guide back in my Cast Member days – sitting down for meals can be a time-saver over quick service. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the makeup of your group, but in general, if you have a reservation, you know that you will be generally seated at a certain time, and you can relax. With quick service, the prices may look lower, but between standing in line, looking for a seat (sometimes battling for a seat, in popular locations!) you could waste a lot of valuable park time. Plus, with character dining, you’re killing two birds with one stone, since that’s an attraction (like Princess meet and greets) you can now skip since you met five princesses in one meal! Whoo!

For our situation, sitting down was absolutely a fantastic choice, for all of the above reasons, plus the fact that I didn’t have to attempt to carry a tray of food, while maneuvering a toddler, and wearing an infant.

Speaking of herding the kiddos, I absolutely was eager to test my theories on the best way to transport them, and this is what I gathered..part of Tip #3 – Know your kids’ mobility preferences!

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Epcot’s Fountain of Nations

To preface, I am a babywearer, and have been since Abby was an infant. Our carrier(s) of choice are the MJ Babycarrier and the Kinderpack – and of course, since Ellie’s still two months, that was an easy choice to bring/use. However, with Abby – she doesn’t LOVE riding the stroller (unless we’re running), but it is a lot of walking to expect out of a toddler, and since I have to carry a diaper bag, I can’t exactly tandem wear them (like I could possibly do, for say, a walk around the neighborhood).

So, I divided it up like so:

  • Double Stroller – for Epcot afternoon and Animal Kingdom evening
  • Carrier (infant) + walk- (toddler) combo – for Magic Kingdom morning and Disney Springs morning

The no-stroller days could have been a lot more challenging if they weren’t designed to be shorter, but ideally, I could have thrown my umbrella stroller in the trunk for those days – easily folded up on the bus, but helpful if Abby got tired – luckily, we toughed it out! (for more – I mean, a lot more stroller ramblings, check out this post).

Which brings up my second-to-the-last Tip #4: Know how you’re gonna go. To me, knowing how you’re gonna get from Point A to Point B is the surefire way to reduce stress on your Walt Disney World trip. I am fortunate to have most of the knowledge stowed up in parts of my brain, but for newbies, this site is absolutely helpful. Mapping out the most direct route (and alternate routes, just in case!) ensures more time having fun and less time being frustrated about missing a reservation! Bonus tip: always overestimate the time you think it might take to get somewhere (busses, for example, run every 20 min-ish, and wait times are posted at bus stops, but I always figure ~45 minutes to get from place to place), it will further reduce aggravation, and pleasantly surprise you when you get there quicker than planned!

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A quiet moment at Epcot’s Baby Care Center.

Since I am closing in on 1K words, I thought I’d end on a high note, with Tip #5 – USE THE BABY CARE CENTERSI really love these!

Each park has a designated one, and while some are busier than others (the one in Magic Kingdom can get a bit busy), in general, they’re wonderful places to duck in for diaper changes (they have tons of changing stations, extra large, as depicted here), feeding (they have high chairs, microwaves, sinks and tables), nursing (private rooms) and even a lounge area (complete with Disney cartoons) for bigger kids that might just need to get away from the hustle and bustle. Best of all, they are staffed by friendly Cast, and even have a small retail selection of baby items (diapers, baby food, formula, clothing) just in case!

In general, the main takeaway in traveling with young children (and really, with any group, to some extent) is to manage expectations.

BONUS! Ready for a lightning round of tips? Here we go:

  • You won’t do as MUCH (though you certainly can take advantage of Rider Switch, especially if you have more adults in your group – read all about that here.)
  • Travel with friends! Or, in our case, meet up with them! Since Abby’s just two, she doesn’t have a theme park ticket yet (that starts at three) but loves attractions – good news! She had the ability to “tag along” with friends’ FP+ reservations for any non height-restriction attractions (double tip: check those in advance to avoid unnecessary stress here).
  • You shouldn’t go straight through, all day, everyday (try to stick with your kids’ usual naptimes to avoid meltdowns) – but you can schedule early and late with Extra Magic Hours, if you are staying on property, to still clock those theme park hours!
  • Absolutely download the My Disney Experience app! I booked a few Fastpass+ each day, but they weren’t always the most ideal time slots. Surprise! Once we arrived, I was able to modify on the fly, and we had extremely minimal waits in the return lines. Additionally, one of our chosen FP+ selections was for Pirates of the Caribbean, which went down for some sort of technical difficulties, which was a bummer – but we were quickly compensated, via email, a replacement FP for (almost) any other MK attraction (exception was Seven Dwarves Mine Train, which I could not do with both littles with me, anyway)!

As in planning any other vacation/getaway, it can feel overwhelming, but the good news is, it’s not impossible, and there are COUNTLESS resources to help you plan for your best experience! And of course, don’t forget my ultimate tip: recruit the aid of a Disney Certified Travel Professional for no-fee planning 😉 I mean, why not!?

 

 

Dear 28+ month old Abby

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If I could freeze time…

Dear Abby,

I knew I said I’d stop the monthly updates in December when you turned two, but after returning from three days at Walt Disney World with you and your sister, I couldn’t resist recording everything I feel today, at this very moment. I know, I know, it’s super predictable, but tears are welling up and I can’t help it. I am just so very proud of how much you’ve grown and continue to learn each day.

You’re a big sister now, and seeing you work so hard to keep Ellie happy is the best thing I have experienced. From proclaiming “she’s my little sissy!” to strangers at the grocery store, or running to fetch a burp cloth after Ellie spits up – it’s just hard to describe how I feel. There are millions of simple, solitary moments that might not seem like much to other people, but mean the world to me.

You have become so much more talkative in the past month – stringing together 3,4,5 and more word sentences, and excitedly sharing your work on the A, B, C’s and numbers. At Disney, you asked Minnie where Mickey was, Mickey were Minnie was, and Elsa where  Anna was. You make me laugh so much, even when you’re stubborn; I remind myself that having a strong-willed child is a positive thing and that you’re still learning how to establish your limits.

There are days you argue with me. “No nap!” when I know you are extremely tired or “All done!” when you’ve had hardly anything to eat. You have great days with potty training, then forget sometimes, and have an accident, which upsets you. Know that I understand that it’s hard to learn so many things for the first time, and I always try to keep my patience with you, because you’re so special to me.

At almost two and a half, you have favorite things:

  • Color: Blue
  • Food: Macaroni and Cheese
  • Shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Team Umizoomi and Paw Patrol
  • Songs: Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Character: Minnie Mouse

…and you’re not afraid to shout it out to anyone who will listen!

Speaking of fear – you’ve reached a milestone where you have learned what being scared feels like, as you experienced in the darkness of Disney’s Animal Kingdom this week when the “Rivers of Light” show came on. You told me you had to go potty, but as I carried you, you snuggled in and said, “mama, no potty. It’s just…I am scared,” as you pointed to the bright spotlights illuminating the water.

I told you, “that’s okay Abby. Mommy’s here, you don’t need to be scared,” and you smiled back, “Mama’s here. Mama’s here. Thanks, mama. I love you.”

As small as that event might have been, I felt, in that moment, that even though I know I won’t be able to solve all your problems in life, I would do anything to just be there for you. I am here, Abby, and I always will be.

I love you so much,

Mommy

To Roll, or not to Roll?

…by stroller, I mean 🙂

The last I discussed using a stroller at Walt Disney World was in a recap of Abby’s first Walt Disney World visit at four months of age (that post here). At that time, my verdict proved to match my suspicion – I didn’t feel like it was necessary for our needs for one child, and was more of a nuisance than a help. Sure, it was nice to carry stuff (bags, snacks, and the like), but overall, I rated the usefulness of a stroller (for a young infant) as not worth it.

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Our fabulous Thule Urban Glide 2.

Fast forward two years (almost to the exact dates!) and we just returned from Ellie’s first Walt Disney World trip, at two months of age. We’ve since upgraded our ride to a double stroller, the Thule Urban Glide 2. It’s been a fantastic stroller thus far for our neighborhood walks (even our walks over to the strip mall about a 1/2 mile from our house, when going the long way), and so, faced with the decision of how I’d transport the girls for this trip, decided to give the stroller life another try.

Why did I decide this was a good idea? Just a few reasons:

  1. Ellie doesn’t have the head/neck control quite yet to be placed in the stroller without the infant seat (though I feel like she’ll be ready sooner, rather than later), so that meant we’d be carting along the infant carseat as well). Although it’s bulky, and makes steering the stroller a little more challenging, I knew she’d be comfortable, especially for the days we planned on visiting Epcot and the evening event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (after hours, so she’d be sleeping apx. 90% of the time).
  2. Abby is now a toddler, with VERY strong opinions. She often will DEMAND rather than ask for things, including being carried (which she didn’t do, even a year ago). And though she’s petite (~27 pounds), it’s not an easy feat to carry her, plus the baby (in a carrier), plus a ~10 pound diaper bag.
  3. Honestly, I love this stroller so much, I knew it would perform well (in terms of maneuverability, and comfort for Abby, in case she felt tired/wanted to nap in the stroller).

Yes, good reasons, but I also had a laundry list of reasons I almost didn’t bring the stroller! Namely:

  1. I knew Epcot would be crowded with the Flower and Garden Festival, and I was not super excited about the idea of weaving through distracted/inebriated guests who would likely place the blame on me if they were “hit” by our stroller.
  2. Abby is now a toddler, with VERY strong opinions. No, that’s not a typo/egregious use of copy+paste. Haha! I was concerned I would be bringing a stroller that wouldn’t get used, in case she demanded to walk rather than ride.
  3. Honestly, I love this stroller so much – again, not a typo, hah! We got a great deal on it, but it’s still a $500+ stroller, and I am not so ignorant to believe that it could be stolen when left in a stroller parking area. HOWEVER, it has a bit of a tricky foot break that, unless you’re familiar with it, could make it hard to roll off with…plus, I outfitted the stroller with a large, obnoxious sign with our name on it.

So, I made a game plan: we’d try out the stroller half of the time, and go stroller-less the other half, and then compare notes. Below are some of my field notes and ratings:

Epcot100% worth it!

If there’s anything I remember from VIP Tour Guide Training in my Cast Member days, it’s that Epcot is 300 acres. Even though Abby loves to walk, I KNEW that would be a no-go, even with just a half day visit. The other advantage I had that day was that we drove there (rather than bussed) so it was “easy” to set up the stroller, and walk right into the park (side note: if/when you visit during a busy arrival time in the parking lot, it can be a little intimidating to get your stroller out, infant seat set up, and both children in before a second line of cars is parked behind you. Also, I was almost boxed in on both sides, and had to really squeeze through to get the carseat out, and the stroller to the front of the cars, and I don’t think I am that slow). ANYWAY.

Epcot, even when crowded, is a lot more accommodating (in park) for strollers, wheelchairs, and ECVs with wider walkways and easily identifiable stroller parking, so bringing the stroller really was as pleasant an experience as I could have hoped.

BONUS! I snuck Abby’s Belle dress into the underseat compartment, and surprised her before Princess dinner! I could not have done that without the stroller.

Magic Kingdom – 75% against

On the morning of, I decided against bringing the stroller for two reasons:

(a) I have slight anxiety about being hit by strollers, moving strollers, and the like in Magic Kingdom – not only from my past experience in bringing one in, but from my Cast Member days – both in stroller rental, and from an attractions perspective. The park is just FULL of them (I mean, I get it, it’s Magic Kingdom) but honestly, it’s overwhelming. I had an okay experience a few months ago bringing Abby’s single stroller for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – I mean, I themed it and everything – but with the double, I’d be contending with the curbs of Main Street, the narrow walkway between Peter Pan/it’s a small world in Fantasyland, and the paths around the Castle – in other words, it just stressed me out.

(b) Abby asked to ride the bus. Yes, my child is obsessed with all forms of transportation, and the busses get just as top billing as the monorails or ferry boats in her world. Although the Thule folds up super easily and is surprisingly lightweight for it’s size, there’s no way I could physically do that, get both girls on the bus, AND carry the infant carseat at the same time. I suppose if we were staying at a Monorail Resort, this wouldn’t be an issue (especially if we were at Bay Lake Tower or the Contemporary).

So, I decided to brave it. And admittedly, there were a few moments that perhaps could have been more efficient, logistically, if I maybe threw our cheapy umbrella stroller into the trunk so we could use that instead, but with a 4 hours plan of being in the park, it was doable without the stroller.

Bottom line: if you want a stroller here, bring the smallest one you can bring that makes sense for your situation. Maybe something like a the Yoyo or Pockit stroller (not affiliate links) if you want something for your larger infant/toddler.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 100% recommend

My rating is a little biased/off since we were visiting for a special after-hours event (AKA not regular day crowds) but with the sheer size of the park, coupled with the darkness/low light, having the stroller was great! I loved being able to move freely along the pathways, and I think riding through new places was an added thrill for Abby, especially in the Pandora area.

I never felt boxed in, or in the way, and was always able to find somewhere to park the stroller. Definitely recommend.

Disney Springs – 50 / 50

Disney Springs day came with another request from Abby for a bus ride. I had planned on just driving (and therefore, using the stroller) but she wanted “bus and boat.”

Since it was our last day / no parks, I honored her request, thinking the transportation would take center stage as an attraction – however, with that, I’d face the same issue with folding the stroller/lugging the carseat, so stroller-less it was!

I must also add, at this point, that I am a fast walker. Like, to the point it’s almost painful to walk slow (but I’ve been working on this with Abby, of course). So, I reminded her that (a) we could walk her speed (b) carrying her was not an option, since I had the baby (in a carrier), the diaper bag, and it was the warmest day (reaching mid 80’s by lunchtime).

Along with the decision to go stroller-less, we also decided to close in on our touring radius. Ideally, we would have seen all of Disney Springs, from the Marketplace to the West Side, but with Abby’s little legs, I modified our excursion to Town Center and The Landing only (basically, the area between the bus drop off and the boat dock).

Crowds were low, so it was stress-free to let Abby walk along, and with a much smaller area to explore, we didn’t have any situations where she couldn’t handle the distance – plus, she really did love the bus and boat rides. Unfortunately, I would have liked to do a little more at Disney Springs (we grabbed my free cupcake at Sprinkles, then opted to go back to Old Key West to eat, rather than venture beyond our target area for food) but it still worked out.

Summary/ tl;dr

Overall, I’d say it was worth bringing the stroller along, and I am glad I tried it out, despite my cringing at the thought of recommending it – it’s kind of like my version of people feeling defeated by buying a minivan. Hah!

But really? The worst part about having a stroller truly is the need to be 300% focused on those around you. I mean, those people that just stop in a walkway, checking the theme park map, or their phone – totally oblivious of their surroundings? Yeah, they’re definitely going to blame you if you hit them. Hah! I had a few people walk INTO us and then give us a dirty look – even with me often calling out, “watch out!” or “excuse me!” Truth be told, there are also realllllllllllly oblivious / ignorant stroller “drivers” out there too, but there’s one in ever crowd, right?

So yes, I rambled for 1500+ words on my stroller experience at Walt Disney World, but really, I am happy I did, if this helps ANYONE with their decision.

(Belated) Happy Two Months, Ellie!

IMG_7002A month has gone by already?

Oh, my poor blog – I haven’t updated in a month (and a few days, to be exact) and it seriously boggles my mind how fast time is flying. Since my last update, Ellie has continued to grow and amaze us – I am packing up her 3-month sized clothes (already) and she’s moved up to 6-months! By my unofficial measurements (i.e., standing on the scale with her, then putting her down and subtracting the difference), she’s almost 13 pounds!

Looking at photos of her now, vs. Abby at that age is so wild – if I were to compare them, I’d say Ellie is about Abby’s age-adjusted four month size (see Abby’s 4 month update here). I’ll find out her exact stats soon at her two-month check up in about a week and a half.

Along with being bigger, Ellie also excels at the three top baby subjects: eating (obviously), sleeping (lots of naps, plus she can sleep up to 6 hour stretches, waking only once a night) and peeing/pooping (average ~11 diaper changes a day).

Other amazing things? She’s already rolled over – in fact, more than once – from tummy to back. Yikes!

IMG_6841Next week, we will celebrate Ellie’s first trip to Walt Disney World, so we are pretty excited about that! Our double stroller will make it’s first trip debut as well – thankfully both girls love riding in it.

All in all, I cannot help but express my gratitude at what a “good” baby Ellie is. She’s extremely laid back, and has taken all kinds of “love” from both of her siblings – human and canine. Both are fiercely protective of her, and love to cover her in kisses!

Caring for two littles can be a bit of a juggling act sometimes, but it’s a lot less scary than I had imagined. Abby – when not being a “typical” two-nager (asserting her independence, voicing her defiance, or generally striking against routine naps, meals or parental requests) is extremely patient and helpful when it comes to her little sister. Nary a cry goes without a prompt pacifier retrieval, immediate spitup-clean up, or wipe offering at diaper change time – it’s really the sweetest thing.

So…onward! And…who needs some NB or 0-3 month outfits? 😉