October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Picking!

Between our Salt Lake trip and now, MUCH has been happening in our busy little life, and I'm posting this out of order, but I've got to start somewhere. It's the little things people, and one of the "little things" we decided to do this year was to take the girls pumpkin picking.

This was actually a new thing for me this year, I normally pick my pumpkins off of the bales of hay sitting outside the local grocery store. Not this year! We headed out to Sudbury and met up with Joni and Laura. We packed the kiddos in the cars, and went to a small farm in Framingham. We got there at a great time. It was a Sunday afternoon, it wasn't busy or crowded and it was extremely toddler friendly. I actually think that it wouldn't be the best spot for an older child who might want to actually pull their pumpkin off the vine, but it worked perfectly for our needs this year. They placed all of their pumpkins in rows in fields on the property and guests were able to walk about and pick whichever pumpkin they thought was best. They had wire wagons available for hauling pumpkins back to the farm stand, a tractor for kids to sit/play on, and a giant pumpkin----shell?---that the girls found fascinating. There were horses fenced in next to the patch and the girls got a kick out of watching their cousin feed them some grass. I was a bit terrified at the idea of letting my kiddos shove their cute little chubby hands (that I love to photograph so much!) into the face of a gigantic animal, so I didn't encourage that. Matt seemed less worried, and I may or may not have snagged a peak at Sophie giving one of the horsies a treat.

We decided to go with one pumpkin this year. To know me is to know my love of (okay, my OCD/CDO need for) traditions, so of course I HAD to carve something. Joni and Laura grabbed a couple (I haven't seen, but I'm sure they turned out great) for themselves, and then we were off! It was a great outing, nice fall weather, no crowds which is nearly impossible to come by in Boston, and the girls loved it! I loved it so much I think we'll have to find a place to do it in Salt Lake next fall. 

Here are photos of our afternoon in the patch, as well as our finished product, Jack, our first family jack-o-lantern. We put him in the window for the neighbors to enjoy, since we don't have a front porch.  Since this was a couple of days ago, he's since been retired to the garbage, but he'll live on in our fond memories through my iPhone photos. :D

Small Angle Well Controlled Intermittent Exotropia

It's a mouthful, to say the least. Several months ago, in June, I began noticing that Olivia's right eye was tracking outward. At first, I thought I was crazy. I thought I was tired or that my declining vision was playing tricks on me. Then I saw it again. And again. And again. 

I asked Matt if he was seeing what I was seeing, and he wasn't. I called Olivia's pediatrician anyway, who said that this sort of thing is common in children her age, and even more common among preemies. Dr. Shoyer suggested we see a pediatric ophthalmologist and recommended Dr. Mellott who is part of the same practice. We took Olivia to see Dr. Mellott in June, and after a difficult exam (by difficult I mean Olivia wouldn't hold still and/or stop screaming long enough to open her eye) she decided that since she hadn't seen the eye turn, we should wait and see if I kept noticing it or if it went away. She asked us to follow up in 4 months if it continued or got worse. 

As the summer went on, I kept noticing it happening. Matt eventually started seeing it too. The first time he said, "her eye is stuck outward!" I breathed an enormous sigh of relief....which seems strange. Of course, I wasn't relieved that there was something going on with my daughter's eye, I was relieved that staying home all day with two kids wasn't actually driving me crazy. The problem worsened as the summer went on. It was noticeable anytime she was tired, or angry, or crying, or sleepy. Sometimes it would just happen out of nowhere, when she was perfectly fine. I noticed it a lot on our trip in Salt Lake. When we got back to Boston, I called Dr. Mellott's office and made an appointment for a follow-up for October.

I took Olivia (and Sophie, obviously) in to have her eye checked again, and this time we were with the doctor long enough for her to see the eye turn. She said, "well, she definitely has a small angle well controlled intermittent exotropia.....which means that her eye tracks outward". She didn't offer much in the way of an explanation of this diagnosis (I don't much care for this doctor as a pediatrician....she's not very good with kids) but did tell me that in about 1/3 of patients it goes away with or without treatment, for about 1/3 of patients there is no change, and for about 1/3 of patients the condition worsens despite treatment. In the case of this last circumstance, surgery is typically the option that patients (really parents) choose in order to correct the issue. The issue here being that most parents don't want their kids to grow up with a lazy eye and endure teasing and bullying throughout their school years. Thinking about this presents a whole dilemma that I won't get into with this post. 

The doctor's treatment instructions were:

Patch the left eye (her good eye) 2 hours per day for one month to see if this helps the control. Apparently this condition is about muscle control rather than muscle strength. My first thought "yeah right, lady". Her alternate instructions included filling a prescription for an eye drop medication called Atropine. We ended up doing this because I knew there was no way I was going to get my squirmy, sensitive, stubborn child to wear an eye patch for two hours ever day! Choosing this option means that Matt has to pin her down while I cram her eye open far enough to squeeze one drop in each week. It immediately dilates her pupil, and she's fine right afterwards, although she is excellent at screaming and writhing while we're trying to get it all done.

Right now we've settled on giving Olivia the eye drops once a week and seeing how her eye does with this treatment. So far, I haven't noticed a big slip...it seems to be working. While she has the drops in her system, though, her pupil is dilated pretty much for the entire week. Whenever we go outside, I give her her sunglasses to put on. It's a good thing she enjoys wearing these (she often asks to wear them inside the house). 

These photos are from our first trip to the park the morning after her first eye drop treatment. I'm still concerned that this may not work for her, but right now, her vision doesn't seem to be greatly affected, if at all (it's so hard to tell in a toddler who can't communicate!), and she's otherwise happy and healthy. And so cute in her sunglasses!

October 24, 2012

Salt Lake City-August 2012

So this one time...back in August, we took a trip to Salt Lake City! 

Ha. I know, I'm so lame for just posting these photos now. BUT this post being out of the way now leads into posts about the girls' 2nd birthday, their party, their photo shoot, and their check-up! There's lots more to come, people!

Our trip to Salt Lake had been planned for months, and we were anxiously looking forward to seeing all of our friends and family. Our time was spent catching up with as many people as we could possibly squeeze into two weeks, lots and lots of date nights away from the kiddos, and more restaurant-meals that one should ever care to eat! 

We booked the girls as "lap-infants" in order to take advantage of the airlines age restrictions and to save us nearly $1000 on airfare. It's.....ridiculous. I'm not sure what Matt was expecting, but I was sort of dreading this experience of flying with two toddlers. I made sure to pack lots of crazy snacks for them, which in retrospect wasn't the greatest idea. They loved their junk food, don't get me wrong, but I feel like they would have arrived in better moods had they eaten real food instead of being packed nearly to bursting full of sugar. On our return trip back to Boston, I did pack string cheese, carrots and celery, grapes, and cucumbers. They enjoyed those snacks just as well, and I felt like a better mom.

They actually did much better on the flights than I had expected. I've noticed that being a mother has made me expect the absolute worst to happen in every situation so when things don't turn out a complete disaster, I'm very pleasantly surprised, and I write off the whole experience as a success. The girls didn't cry and scream too much, we did get stuck in the very last row of the plane though, and actually managed to sleep for a little bit during the last flight between Chicago and Salt Lake. We arrived in Salt Lake around 10pm local time, which was already 4 hours passed the girls usual Boston Bedtime. Poor things were SO tired and SO over stimulated, the barely recognized all of their grandparents and aunties. 

Here's Sophie busting into her snacks early while we were waiting to board in Boston.

Toddlers are so resilient! They bounce back much more quickly than adults, and these guys were thrilled to wake up in a land of perpetual attention and play! Grandpa bought them a new pool to play with, but unlike last summer when they enjoyed splashing the water out of the pool from the inside, they preferred to throw soccer balls and scoop water out by the measuring cup-fulls. The weather we encountered was typical for a Utah summer, so splashing in the pool was a perfect activity to help these guys escape the heat. Plus it made for some great photos!

Grandpa wasn't afraid to get in there with them! They loved throwing water all over him!

I brought my camera with me on the trip since I was planning on doing a couple of shoots while I was in town so having the girls occupied with water allowed me time to play on my own a bit. So I snapped some shots of my parents and the hubby.

Okay, so you all should know (and I've probably mentioned it a few times) that Matt RARELY lets me photograph him unless he's with one of the girls. I think it's ridiculous because I'm like, "please, like I'd make you look bad", and he's like"whatever, hurry up and take the stupid picture"....so I hurried up and took some stupid pictures, which I think turned out awesome. Here's my awesome hubby, captured in some awesome pictures, playing with this awesome apple products and wearing his awesome Ray-Bans!

Our schedule was incredibly busy for most of the two-weeks we were in town, but we did have some intermittent moments of downtime. Among those moments were a leisurely trip to the Murray Park farmer's market, and playtime for the girls that allowed them to play with toys and books they hadn't seen in months. 

We made sure to take time out of our crazy schedule to visit Matt's sister, Lisa, in Ogden. Matt's sister, Amy and her husband Russ came over to Lisa's to see us too, and we spent a great evening there with family. The girls had a blast playing with their cousins and their cousins' toys! Maddy had quite the collection of play-balls (like the kind in the McDonald's play-place) and the girls could have spent all night moving those things in and out of buckets and boxes and play-yards. They were sufficiently worn out when we took them home. Here's a couple shots of Lincoln that I took while I was playing with my new camera (in case you missed my Facebook post about this, Matt bought me a brand new Nikon D7000, along with two new lenses and a speed light, for my birthday. I never knew I could enjoy turning 25 so much!) This little kiddo is such a sweetheart. He was all smiles the entire night, and has grown SO much since the last time I photographed him as a newborn. The photos from that first shoot with him are still some of my personal favorites and are featured on my website (www.avenuetwelvephotography.com). 

In keeping with the busy tone of our trip, we had an outing to the zoo with the Martella's. The girls LOVED seeing all the animals and hanging around with their Nana and Pop-Pop. We were able to get the entire group in for 50% off since Matt and I are members of the Boston Science Museum...that membership has more than paid for itself in admission and parking savings! 

Nana bought the girls hats from the gift shop and they loved wearing them with their sunglasses. I love this shot we got (I'm not sure if me or Matt took this photo of her) of Olivia leaning on the gate near the carousel. I call her my "little leaner" because she leans on EVERYTHING. I catch her doing it all the time and it cracks me up! 

The girls have been into walking on their own lately, instead of riding in the stroller. We had the stroller with us because I knew they'd get tired eventually, but they enjoyed walking around the zoo holding hands with all of us. Sophie is holding Aunt Stephanie's hand, and Olivia was the typical Mommy's-Girl she usually is. 

The girls had their first carousel ride at the zoo! Nana bought them tickets and at first, they were a little apprehensive. I think Sophie really got into it though and had a good time. Olivia just seemed to go along with it, and didn't fight it, which I was grateful for. Thanks to Matt for taking these photos while Kathy and I rode with the kiddos!

My favorite part about the zoo was seeing the elephants. They've become one of my favorite animals over the years--they just fascinate me and I could watch them for hours! Some of us missed the bird show, I think Jeff, Natalie, and Steph made it in, so the rest of us headed over to watch the keepers give the elephants a bath! It was crazy to see them spray down the giants with a fire hose. The top photo of the elephant here is the older one they have. She was throwing dirt all over herself! The bottom photo is the baby elephant that was born a couple of years ago. She was extremely playful with the water and the girls loved watching her!

Matt suggested we have a picnic in the park, the park being Liberty Park, one day, and suggested that we get Little Caesars pizza for lunch! It was an awesome idea. We have one Little Caesars out here that we've found, but it's about 45 minutes away from where we live, and that doesn't exactly translate into the best deal for $5 pizza. We packed some apple juice for the girls and headed out with Granny for our lunch date. We had a great time walking around the park, and despite what this picture shows, the girls didn't actually fight the whole time. Sophie is actually trying to hug Olivia in this photo, and Olivia didn't seem to want a hug from sissy. It's still funny though. :)

I think these pictures of Matt with Olivia are so special. She's usually a Mommy's-Girl, and Sophie is the Daddy's-Girl. It's sweet to see Olivia loving on her daddy. 

My request on our trip was to spend an evening at Snowbird with my family. We used to go up there when I was growing up. We'd take a fried-chicken picnic, eat on the tables up at the resort, and then walk one of the trails. This was girls' first time on a "hike" and it was great for me since my knees and ankles aren't strong. It was easy-going, and very scenic. 

I love Olivia's face in this photo. She was trying to get me! She looks a little crazy...but cute-crazy!

So Sophie has a giant crush on Emily's Tyler. She calls him "Ty" and actually cried that evening when he left us. She was attached to him the whole hike. He carried her some of the way, and held her hand as she walked for the rest of it. It's so cute to see her SO happy! Matt and I got a huge kick out of this, and Tyler is such a good sport--he was happy to hang out with our little toddler for the evening. 

When we got to the end of the trail, we took a bunch of photos....

I feel like I'm never in any photos, which I normally prefer, but especially with Matt. I'm in photos with the girls a lot of the time, because he's usually the one snapping the picture. We rarely get photos of just the two of us, so even though some of these that my sister took for us are pretty silly, I really love them. 

This photo where I'm making the crazy face was a completely candid shot, and I laugh out loud every time I see it. It's a stupid picture, and I can't remember what Matt was doing to evoke this (probably tickling me) but it really captures our playfulness together, which is one of my favorite things about our marriage.

I still get squeamish when my parents kiss in front of me, but they're old and cute now, so it's sweet to see their playfulness come out sometimes too. 

And Emily. Oh Em. My sissy. She makes everyone laugh because she's SO crazy silly all of the time. Her playfulness is infections, much to the dismay of my mother, but what else are little sisters for except to keep you young?

As if my awesome new camera wasn't enough, Tyler's family graciously gave up their season tickets to us for the Utes season opener! The game was on my birthday, and it was fantastic! The game was fantastic, the crowd was fantastic, the company was fantastic, and even though I left them at home with Granny for the game, I made sure the girls were representing. Nana gave them these cheerleader outfits about a year ago and they've finally grown into them! I've never been a big fan of cheerleaders, but these two stole my heart...

...despite the tantrums thrown on the concrete patio.

While we were in town, we had a giant birthday-bash for me, my sister, my mom, Kathy, and the girls. We all have birthdays in August/September and decided to celebrate since we were all together! For the girls' birthday last year, I made cake pops for their party, and it was the most stressful culinary endeavor I have ever attempted. Matt really liked them last year though, and asked if I would make them again for our party. I agreed on the condition that he would help me. We also enlisted the help of the girls. It was fun to let them pour ingredients together and to let them help stir everything up. I'm pretty active in the kitchen and they're always curious about what I'm doing in there, so it's nice that they're getting older and more able to participate. One day I hope to teach them everything I know. Combine that with the mad cooking abilities of Kathy and the generation-old techniques of my mother, and these girls will be amazing chefs in no time!

Matt is the baker in our family, as I refuse to do it most of the time, and he has quite the sweet-tooth. He suggested we make the cake for the cake pops from scratch and I was like....ha. yeah right. So we used a mix, two in fact (strawberry and confetti). I will mention that since we've been home though, he has made many many desserts for us from scratch including apple crisp and apple cobbler--made with apples we picked as a family at Honey Pot Hill Orchard, brownies, and a black forest torte for the girls' birthday party. Yes. ALL from scratch. And I wonder why I struggle so much with weight loss....

The girls were very helpful when it came to pouring the cake mix into the mixing bowls, adding the water and eggs, and stirring the batter. Sophie kept making yummy noises the whole time. The batter did smell delicious!

Annnnd the finished product. They were very yummy.

Our family vacation was definitely all about family. We found ways to have lots of fun without really doing anything at all....like pushing the girls around the driveway in Grandpa's wheelchair.

The girls grew up a lot on this trip. Before the trip they were hardly saying words at all. They were still pointing and grunting mostly, but when they were faced with a thousand different people to communicate with all at one time, they picked up on things very quickly. It was so fun to see what new things they'd do every day. They perfect the art of stair-climbing, got really good at saying "shoes", and somehow managed to survive with virtually no routine or schedule whatsoever. What did I say--resilient!

Part of our trip included a visit from my grandparents from San Diego, and my great-grandmother from Iowa. We made sure to take another 5-Generation photo, and we'll make sure we do each time we get to see all of them! It's so special to me to have these photos of our family lineage. It's amazing to see what personality traits fight their way through each generation, and which ones the men in our lives have been able to stamp out. :D My girls are the oldest (sort of) of the oldest (me), of the oldest (my mom), of the oldest (my grandma), of the oldest (my great-grandmother). And the stubbornness ensues....

It was a great trip. We saw all of our family and many many friends. We ate out at all of our favorite places which included (but absolutely wasn't limited to):

Cafe Rio  (okay so we ate here like a thousand times)
In n' Out Burger
Wing Coop

We gained weight, lost sleep, and liked it so much we decided to move back!!

Okay, so that last part is a little misleading. It turns out we are moving back to Salt lake at the beginning of December, although that was an avenue we had pursued long before this vacation. Matt was able to transfer offices, so he will be doing the same job for the same company, but we will be able to spend our days with friends and family. We've loved Boston and have really loved being near Joni, Laura and Linus (we will miss you guys SOOO much!) but Salt Lake is home, and we're very excited to move back. It's going to be challenging to relocate my business again, and if my accountant-husband is complaining about the complexity of this year's taxes, you know it's serious, but it will be well-worth the 2nd 2,600 mile trek we will accomplish with twin toddlers in less than 12 months! We are landing at my parents house in Murray for a month or so while we find a place to rent, and then from there we hope to stay settled for several years. I'm relying on all of my friends, family, and previous clients to help me cement my photography business again, and I hope that it gets on its feet faster than it did out here. I have been having a great busy-season here in Boston, but find it unfortunate that I cannot remain with these clients, since they are wonderful and have precious kiddos! We've got a lot of packing left to do, and we'll be leaving here in just about 5 short weeks!

See you soon, Salt Lake City!