Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It was meant to be

2009 was an exciting year for us in many ways. It started out rough, medically. On January 14, Grandma Joanne (my mom) had a heart valve replacement and 2 bypasses. She did well with the surgery, but recovery was very difficult. While she was recovering at our house, Aaron contracted RSV and ended up spending a week in Children’s Hospital with oxygen & breathing treatments. The Steelers won the Super Bowl, which Roger and I watched on a really old TV with bad color in Aaron’s hospital room eating Quaker Steak and Lube (that they delivered to us…for a premium!). We watched the Pitt students flood the streets of Oakland in celebration from Aaron’s window. It was quite a sight. Grandma ended up back in the hospital with an infection just after Aaron got home, but has made a full recovery.

In the spring, Ian turned two and had a Blue’s Clues party. Ian and Aaron both had surgeries. Ian had a new set of tubes put into his ears and Aaron had a minor urologic issue repaired. Both boys did great and have recovered well.

Aaron was released by his urologist for both his surgical repair AND his kidney problems in July. We’re so thankful for that!

We tried to go camping over the summer, but it must’ve been too soon. ;-) We ended up leaving in the middle of the night and returning to the campground the next day to pick up our stuff.

In the fall, Aaron celebrated his first birthday. We went to Disney world. We flew down, all four of us, with car seats and strollers in tow and met Grandma and Papa in Orlando. It was record-breaking HOT in Florida, even at the end of October! We had the best time though. Aaron’s pediatrician decided to put him on asthma medication for the winter to keep him from suffering from the same cough as last winter. So far, it is working! I never thought I’d say that having to do a nebulizer treatment every day with a 1 year old would actually be a blessing, but it is.

We hosted Thanksgiving this year and spent Christmas by ourselves. Christmas Eve Service at church was a disaster, but at least we tried. We really love being at home on Christmas morning. As you saw in the videos, Ian was so into it! The joy of a child at Christmastime is fantastic!

So here we are, about to enter a new year. As we prepare for 2010, we will also prepare for one more thing:

Yes. That’s right. We’ll soon enough be a five-some. We are expecting the 5th Vandervort on July 29, 2010. To say it is a surprise is an understatement. Of course, we love surprises, so we think it is great. We’re scared to death to be outnumbered, but we’ll count our blessings and pray for a healthy little one. The one who is without a doubt a gift from God!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Videos

We've had a nice day! We took a whole bunch of short videos of the boys this morning. These are just a few. Let me know if I need to add captions. Make sure you stick around at the end of Aaron's first look at the tree to see his "happy dance!" Also, Isn't Ian getting articulate? We are loving his communication improvements, but we're also learning some new patience as Ian has hit the "WHY?" stage.

Funny stuff.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Snow of 2009-2010 winter

And we played in it.

A lot.

Well, Ian did anyway. Living in Pittsburgh we lack proper winter play attire. It is shameful, considering our roots. Ian is lucky to have Isaac, his 5 year old cousin, who lives in the snow belt and requires warm snow suits as a matter of survival. Isaac passes down his snow suits to Ian and when Ian is done we pass them back to Meadville for Asher. Ian is wearing one of Isaac's suits for the 2nd winter in a row, since he's sortof stalled out at 2T size. (Last winter he wasn't quite 2T, but this winter he's fitting it perfectly.) So we've got a warm fuzzy snow suit for Ian, even if he doesn't have any snow boots.

I just don't want to pay $25 each for 2 pairs of snow boots, when the reality of Pittsburgh is that they'd only be worn a couple of times. Even KMart is charging that much... ridiculous. Anyway, this post isn't about whining about the price of snow boots. Its about playing in the snow. I personally have an awesome pair of snow boots, which I plan to review on this blog very soon. If you're a woman and you live where it snows, or even just gets chilly, you need a pair of boots like mine. You definitely do.

Moving on.

^Aaron is wearing a Steiff snow suit. Daddy bought it for Ian in Germany last winter, but unfortunately it was a little too small and Ian didn't get to wear it much. It is fitting Aaron perfectly this winter, though! Cool!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bishop Family Christmas

We went to our first Christmas gathering of the season. (We actually don't have too many this year, which is interesting... we must lose our flavor the more rambunctious kids we have? just kidding...)

It was hosted by Roger's Mom and her husband Bob in New Brighton. They rented a room at the Penn Bistro, which in our opinion worked out perfectly! We thought the room was really nice, the space was the right amount, the food was good, the amount of time was right, etc. We thought it was great! Ian and Aaron didn't break anything, they only spilled one cup of water on the floor, and they were fairly easily contained. (Until they figured out there was a fish tank down the hall...)

The boys fell asleep on the way home, but both woke up when we got here. So they got to use their new plates and spoons to eat some soup before they went to bed.

Here are some photos from the day:

^that's a LOT of presents.

^ Ian and Aaron being silly

^the whole group: Front Row: Marilyn, Bob, Ian, Aaron & I
2nd Row: John, Liz, Waylon, Jeff, Melissa, John, & Roger

^the gift baskets we made: 2 coffee mugs, 1/2 pound of La Prima Coffee (local roaster & our favorite), homemade biscotti, intellegentsia tea, & torani syrup. Since Roger's mom and Bob are tea drinkers, their basket had tea only and local honey instead of coffee syrup. And a gift card to Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea, since they got a little something extra!

We thought the baskets turned out great, and the best part, for us, was they were mostly homemade. I like homemade gifts a lot. Maybe next year we will go 100% homemade and local with our gifts. What do you think? We had fun making them, we spent a lot of time putting them together, and we felt proud to be giving them!

Do you ever hand make holiday gifts? What have you made for people? Did they appreciate it more because it was homemade?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

He Climbs

Really, someone should be watching them... right?

"How on earth did he do that?" you ask.

Well, he pushed the little chair up against the bookcase and climbed on, of course.

Gotta love the kids who climb. Ay yay yay!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holy Giveaway!

You can win an HP Touchsmart PC if you head over to MckMama's site! All you have to do is comment to enter.

And if you want another entry, tweet.

And if you want another entry, blog.

And, I get three entries because I did all those things. Come on Lucky number SusanV!!!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baking Biscotti

If you know us well, you know that our last name should be changed to the Coffee-vorts. Roger & I both love coffee. Roger has taken to it as a hobby, while I enjoy being one of his guinea pigs. One of our favorite parts of the coffeeverse is biscotti. We used to buy it, but after a few months we realized that we just couldn't afford the $1.75/piece to support our habit. So we turned to making our own. We've tried several recipes and have ultimately (especially after this morning...I'll get to that) settled on one recipe from Joy Of Baking. Coincidentally, it is the very first recipe I tried and it is so far the best one. (Closest to "specialty store" biscotti, in our opinion.)

This recipe is great exactly as it is written. I made it that way the first time I made biscotti way back in 2008. ;-) This recipe seems to be fully customizable. We've used it as a starting point to create double chocolate, espresso chocolate, hazelnut, pecan, pumpkin, etc. We really do need to start writing down the variations. We are so bad about not writing down our own creations when it comes to baking/cooking.

Anyway, on with it, right? Today we (read: Susan) were baking biscotti to give as Christmas gifts. I decided to try a new recipe (why?? WHY??) and it sounded like it was going to be good. The comments on that recipe were all positive. I thought it was going to be a winner. It was easy to mix up. That was about the only think I liked about the recipe. I hate to say it, but compared to our tried-and-true recipe, this one was a bomb. It took twice as long as the directions stated to bake. It didn't rise at all. It didn't harden up the way I'd expect biscotti to... and the Olive Oil in it is overpowering. I tried to "cover" the olive oil taste with a chocolate drizzle, but ... nope. It just doesn't float our boat. The Joy of Baking (J-O-B) biscotti needs nothing added. No drizzle, no dipped end, no sprinkles. It is just that good.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here's the comparison. (I also made the J-O-B biscotti today. **without the almonds, just chocolate chips)

Can you smell the olive oil from all the way over there?

Some might say, "well, you probably made a mistake with the recipe." and to that I respond, "no, dear ones, I did not. I used utmost care to assure that I followed the recipe exactly as written. I never mess around with a recipe the first time I make something, and this was no exception."

Oh and one more thing... we use mini semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of regular size. No particular reason except that one day we didn't have anything but mini so we used them, and liked it better.

^Olive Oil recipe after baking

^trying to doctor it

^J-O-B before baking

^after 1st baking, before slicing

^after 2nd baking


^side by side comparison

Monday, November 30, 2009

Product Review- Horizon Shelf-Stable Single-Serve Milk

I don't typically go out of my way to buy organic milk. The 2% on the shelf at the grocery store is good enough for us... as long as it is hormone free, which these days, we've found it difficult to find milk that DOESN'T come from hormone free/antibiotic free cows. (Have you noticed that about YOUR grocery stores?)

Here's the thing about this Horizon milk, though. It is shelf stable. You buy it in a case of 18 (we can only get the cases at Whole Foods, but I'm sure that you can get it other places, too.) and you toss one in the diaper bag or into the car when you're leaving for an outing. There's no need for a cooler bag, it doesn't need refrigerated.

When the time comes for milk (our time is always, as our kids love milk, but especially at nap/rest/bed time) you don't have to go searching for a convenience store. You've got an 8oz container of milk at the ready, and you didn't have to worry about keeping it cold all day.

So. Awesome.

In the cooler months (ha ha, September-May in PA) I keep the whole case in the back of the van. I don't even have to THINK about whether there is milk for later. There just IS! And when we get down to 1 or 2 boxes left, we head down to Whole Foods and buy another case. It takes us 3-4 months to use up the single-serve milks because we only use it on-the-go. I fill the boys' cups before we head out to wherever we were headed, and we use the Horizon milks for refills throughout the day.

They're great for weekend vacations, too, because you don't need a refrigerator in your hotel room.

If you have milk drinkers like we do, or a toddler who needs milk before going to bed...like we do... you should give them a whirl!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Little Vocabulary

Aaron is only 13 months old, and without going back to look, I'm almost certain Ian was only saying ... DaDa at 13 months. Ian did say "grandma" on his first birthday, but he only said it once.

Little Aaron, however, is developing quite a little vocabulary! It seems strange to us because he is "so young" to be talking, but I keep hearing that the 2nd child does a lot of things much faster because he wants to keep up with big brother. It is proving to be true at our house.

Aaron can say:

  • uh oh
  • hot dog
  • baby
  • ball
  • dada
  • mama
  • no no
  • papa <--new one this morning!
  • get down
  • upside down

and we're pretty sure he said rainbow this evening, and dinner, and Santa.

He's already a polly parrot, too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Feeding the Chickens

We were going to go to the zoo today, Ian, Aaron & I, but the forecast "decent" weather was foggy and rainy this morning. So we changed plans en route and went to the National Aviary.

We get in there for free because we're members of the Buffalo Zoo. (Don't ask... we've always been members there, since our Erie days...)

It is free to park.

We pack our lunch to eat on the way home, so it doesn't cost us any money for food. And it keeps us from falling asleep on the way home.

Ian wanted to take his binacul-saurs (like dinosaurs?) with him today so he could see the birds better! It was his idea, really. I wonder where he learned that!

Yes, he is using them backwards. No matter how many times we try to correct him, he insists on using them the wrong way.

Tuesdays, they do tot time at 10:30, which includes story time and a song, and then they get to meet some of the birds up close and personal. Today, it was some silky chickens.

Ian is a total teachers' pet, and I guess it doesn't matter WHICH teacher, or even if the person doing tot time isn't even a teacher at all, just an employee at the Aviary. He had to sit next to her during the whole tot time. What a silly kid!

He was a little scared to feed the chickens corn kernals from his hand, but the other 2 boys at tot time this morning were doing it, so Ian gave it a try. It must not have been so bad because he asked to feed them 2 more times after the first time. :-)

Oh, and in case you are wondering... Aaron also really likes the Aviary. A lot. I just forgot to take any pictures of him today. Oops!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Toy of the Week

This week's edition of "toy of the week" is one that we got for Ian last summer, when he was about 15 months old, for our trip to the beach. Since then, it has gotten a lot of playtime, although Ian didn't seem to enjoy it as much as Aaron has been enjoying it lately!

This week's TOTW is... the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank!

It isn't an elaborate toy, just a piggy bank with coins. It does play music, but our batteries are dead and it doesn't matter to Aaron at all. He will sit for 10 min at a time and just put the coins into the slot and then get them back out again. He loves it. And he's developing quite nimble hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

I saw this piggy for sale at Gabriel Brothers (discount store in our Area) for $8, but if you can't find it that cheap, I would still consider getting it for your 1 year old. In fact, I think the recommended age on it is 6 months and up, which is just about perfect. I wish we would've gotten it out sooner for Aaron. (and for Ian, for that matter.)

I happen to LOVE the "Laugh and Learn" line of toys from Fisher Price. We have quite a few of the toys in the line and all of them are well-played-with in this house. Thumbs up on this one!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not Me Monday vol.3

MckMama didn't do a NMM today, but I already wrote this a couple days ago. So here I go with the VFB's first solo NMM post!

I don't have a lot to report from last week, it was pretty mundane. Neither of the kids did anything completely crazy and neither did I! I do have one good one, though, because when I was twittering about it, Roger said, "oh that's gonna make the list for next week!"

On Friday morning, Ian asked for a tootsie pop for breakfast. I let him have one. (We only had one anyway). I justified it in my head by noting that on Thursday Ian had yogurt for breakfast, snack at preschool, apples and grapes for lunch, a salami sandwich on 12 grain bread for snack, and asparagus for dinner. He had a pretty balanced day on Thursday, so sure, why not have a lollipop for breakfast on friday?! (Ha! And, sometimes we mamas just want to drink our coffee in peace. Even if it is only 3 minutes of peace.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2 pictures

I don't think I ever published that on the blog, but I wanted to. It was made by my friend Jennifer at Two Chickens and a Monkey. (Link over there --->)

2nd- This was Aaron and my free pumpkin ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery for my birthday:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A toy that has staying power

Do you have a young son? Or a couple of them, like us? Do you have the Little People Garage? I hope you do! Or at least you're thinking about getting one on Craig's List. Or maybe even paying full price for one. Or maybe you don't have young sons but you know someone who does...

I have never known a toy to get as much playtime as our little people garage has. Truly, our LPG is played with on a near-daily basis. (I say near-daily instead of just daily because sometimes we rotate it out and put it in another room for a couple days.)

Aaron is playing with it most right now, but Ian still plays with it too.

We got ours as a birthday gift from Uncle Todd & Aunt Carrie (my brother, Sister-in-law, and their family) for Ian's 1st birthday. And since that day, the LPG has seen action probably 530 times. (There have been about 547 days since Ian's first birthday.)

How's THAT for staying power?

If you're not sure that your boy(s) will like this toy, pop over to our house and give it a try first. That'd be fun. You should just do that anyway!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Me Monday

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.


Good Morning! This Monday morning the sun is shining through our front windows and the crisp air is going to make way for another 60s-and-sunny BEAUTIFUL day here. Before I get to the things WE DID NOT DO this past week, I'll say something I AM going to do, is take the kids to a beautiful playground. We have to enjoy these beautiful days because all-too-soon it is going to be cold, gray, and gross here.

* Last Monday, I did NOT take my two children to get their photos taken to commemorate Aaron's 1st birthday. It was definitely not a full 2.5 weeks after Aaron's birthday. I also did NOT break a sweat while trying to wrangle them and get at least 2 good photos taken. (One of Aaron by himself, one of the boys together.)

* Also last Monday, I did not feed my sons countless numbers of dumdums lollipops while at the Apple Store getting my new phone. There is no way I'd be such a desperate mother that I'd let my kids suck down lollipops like they're chain-suckers just so I could get 15 minutes of "good behavior" while I waited for my new IPhone. I would never do that. I always have their health and well-being highest on my priority list.

* Last Tuesday I didn't have to take the kids to the doctor for shots, so I definitely did not pack new toys (that I purchased for Christmas stockings), new crayons, chips, lollipops, juice boxes, and band-aids into the diaper bag. I would never bribe Ian with a new Thomas train (or helicopter in this case) to sit in the stroller and not touch ANYTHING. I also would never dream of sticking a Dora band-aid on Ian's leg after he got a shot, even though the doctor's office does not provide band-aids because they are choking hazards, to distract him from the fact that he just got stuck with a needle and is now bleeding. Never. I always keep choking hazards away from my kids, even band-aids.

* On Thursday, I definitely wasn't completely disappointed that my husband wasn't feeling well on my birthday so we didn't go out to dinner. I was very happy, nice, and loving to him. I would never be such a brat to my husband because he didn't feel well.

* On Friday, I did not let Ian run amok at the zoo because it wasn't crowded and I felt safe letting him run ahead a little bit. There is no way I'd let my child get 30 feet away from me in a public place. I always keep my children at my hip. I also did not gawk at the penguins getting it on in the aquarium. I would never point and chuckle at something like that. I'm always very proper and modest.

* On Saturday, while raking leaves, there is no way I didn't notice Ian throwing one of his Wheel Pals onto the pile of leaves as I was carting it across the street to dump into the ravine. I most certainly did not SCOLD HIM for having a meltdown about me going across the street and making him stay in the front yard. I also didn't go back across the street, standing on the edge of a ravine, to search frantically for the stinkin' toy that Ian threw in there. I'd never risk life and limb for a silly little truck. (By the way, I didn't FIND the toy, and I wasn't Ian's hero afterwards... ;-))

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finally, some vaccinations!

Today was Aaron's 1 year well visit. The peanut weighs only 20 lbs 7 oz and is 29 inches tall. He has fallen off the charts with regard to weight for his age. Not a big deal though because he is still gaining and his height/head circumference are around the 40th percentile.

Aaron finally got his first dose of seasonal flu vaccine. He'll need another one in a month. He also got 2 other shots, but, bad mama cannot remember exactly which ones they were. He didn't even cry for the shots at all! Just sucked on his lollipop and let the nurse do her work.

Ian had to come with us today (even though I really HATED the thought of taking two perfectly healthy little boys to the doctor's office in the middle of cold and flu season with rampant H1N1 all around us.) Ian got his seasonal flu shot and he also got the H1N1 mist.

I asked our pediatrician her honest opinion (as the mother of 4 boys) and she said if Ian were her's, she'd give it to him. "Because the kids who are getting it, are REALLY REALLY sick. In fact we're not letting them come to the office anymore, we send them straight to the ER. Aaron is very high-risk & he can't get it, so Ian needs to, and any caregivers of your boys need it too."

I trust her.

In other vaccination news, Aaron isn't getting MMR or Varivax until the spring. The pedi said, "no need to add THAT to the mix when we're just trying to keep him healthy through cold & flu season. We'll give it to him when the flu risks are diminished, and it will still be within the "normal" vaccination window for those two."

Yay! I'm really starting to love this pedi. She's great!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Vandervorts Do Disney 2009-Sat&Sun

First, let's all have a moment of silence for my beloved Iphone. I guess I know what my birthday & christmas present is this year. I'm sick about it.

Saturday 10/31, we woke up with the sun (Aaron was up early enough for me to catch the sunrise over the bay. (Across the main road from the hotel.) We dressed in our swimming gear and got right to the beach-loving as soon as the sun was shining. Even at 8am, it was definitely warm enough to be in the water/on the beach... and get sunburned!

Aaron had his first moments in the ocean. (Some might argue with me about how technically it was not the ocean, but I think it's close enough! Salt Water, Florida, ocean-dwelling sea creatures... yep, close enough.)

Ian, of course, adores the beach and he & Roger spent pretty much the entire day playing in the salt water, sand, etc. I am not crazy about oceans and such (I prefer the pool... unless you're talking about the crystal clear, beautiful ocean in Barbados. THAT was nice!) Murky water is not my favorite... but it was HOT. And Aaron was loving it, so I played along. Aaron & I sat at the edge of the water, where the waves would come in and lap at our bellies for a long time. It was actually quite relaxing & sweet to spend those moments with him in that way.

After dinner, my dad & I quickly dressed the boys in their Halloween costumes and took them across the road to the Publix grocery store for trick or treating. (I saw an ad for it earlier in the day.) When we got back, there were other hotel guests on the patio watching the sunset & they were delighted to see the boys in their costumes. One couple even had trick-or-treat candy on hand! The couple explained that in previous years, kids at the resorts actually would dress up and T-o-T at the neighboring hotel rooms. They hadn't had any T-o-Ters in several years and even considered not buying candy this year. They were tickled to have Ian & Aaron this year! I did feel bad for the boys, in their "Pennsylvania" costumes, as it was still about 85 when they were all dressed up. Ian & Aaron didn't seem to mind, though, they thought it was fun.

We packed our bags. We went to sleep. We got up at THREE A.M. to leave St. Pete Beach for the Orlando Airport.

Our flights home were fine. The boys were well-behaved. And that's the end of the tale. *sigh* Back to real life...

And real life- It included raking leaves, here are the "obligatory" leaf-raking pictures. If you're interested, click back to here, and see what was going on last year!