Friday, July 19, 2013


Now that she's approaching fourteen months old, here are a few of the twelve-month/one-year photos that I took of our baby girl when we got back from Florida, along with some commentary on what our one-year-old has been up to of late.

You want to take my picture?  Too bad!

About two weeks after her first birthday, Louisa took her first intentional steps.  (She had taken a couple of "accidental" steps here and there before that, in the course of letting go of whatever she was holding onto and falling down.)  She's now walking all over the place, if not quite all the time.  And she is SOOOOO proud of her newfound form of mobility!

Big, goofy grin

Louisa has been adding words to her vocabulary lately, too.  Or at least sounds, if not quite words.  New favorites include "ouch" and "wow".  She also will spontaneously say "thanks" if you give her something, and something that sounds like "I love you," occasionally!

Here you go, now you can see how big she's gotten!

She is the SWEETEST baby, and still loves to give hugs and kisses, often unprompted, to us, to her sisters, to the cats, to inanimate objects...  When she wants a kiss, she'll press her lips together, lean toward you, and say "mmmm." 

Silly girl, the bow goes in your hair, not your mouth!

On the other hand, she definitely has a temper when she doesn't get her way, and will squeal and pinch at you when she's mad.  (Seriously!  And I'll give you one guess where she learned that...)  One of the things that makes her angry?  When Amelia or Ramona sits in my lap!  She thinks that she's the only one who gets to do that.

Bear got knocked out of the basket... Louisa barely fits in it anymore!

Nevertheless, Louisa loves her big sisters and wants to be just like them.  For example, she's not happy eating her food with her fingers like a normal baby.  Instead, she wants to use a fork like Amelia and Ramona do.  (Most of the time we have to get the food on the fork for her, but sometimes she actually gets it herself.) 

Chatting with Mr. Bear

And we've given away more than half of our baby toy collection at this point, because Louisa would much rather play with whatever toys Amelia and Ramona have than her own.  (This means that we're often fishing doll shoes and other small items out of Louisa's mouth.  The hazards of being the third child!)

Captured the two seconds she had the bow in her hair on camera!

I really can't believe that it has been a year (and six odd weeks) since we brought our littlest home...


To illustrate just how much of a difference a year makes, here are a couple of collages of Louisa's monthly photo shoots:

12 months in the basket with the bear...

...and 12 months on her quilt with her monkey!

It's been a great year, and we're looking forward to so many more with you, Louisa!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Farewell to Disney

On Friday, we headed back to Magic Kingdom for one last day... 
Ready for one last day of park rides and character spotting.  Let the memories begin, indeed! 

Good morning, Magic Kingdom!

After spending the better part of the week there, we finally had a system worked out.  Arrive right before the park opens, and go immediately to a ride that issues a FASTPASS.  Then, during the hour or so before your FASTPASS time comes up, pick a different ride or character line to wait in.  By the time that ride/character meeting has finished, it's time to go back to your FASTPASS ride.  After the FASTPASS ride is over, find another and repeat!

Riding in elephants and in teacups, on trains and on boats

I loved these windmills in "Holland" on the Small World ride

Oh, and for figuring out when and where to find your favorite characters?  There's an app for that!  I'm not kidding.  The one we used was called My Disney Experience.  It had several features, but we only really used it to help us find particular princesses. 

Even with this technology at our fingertips, serendipity still had a role to play in our visit.  For example, Alice (in Wonderland) just happened to be on the teacup ride at the same time that we were, and Amelia didn't even have to wait in line to meet her afterward!  I just love these pictures of her with Alice: a sweet hug, making grumpy faces (Amelia had very kindly asked Alice to sign her sister's book because Ramona was being a grump), and giggling together.  So cute.       

Some quality time with Alice in Wonderland

We actually got very lucky on Friday.  The only character we had really planned to meet was Tiana -- who was so nice, and the only character who offered to hold Louisa for pictures! -- but, in addition to Alice, we also happened to run into Wendy and Peter Pan, and Cinderella's evil stepmother and stepsisters (who were a riot, and very in character).  Not a bad day.   

Meeting more characters!

Another fun location?  Rapunzel's little corner of Fantasyland.  The princess herself wasn't there, but the girls had a great time admiring the banners and lanterns decorating the square, picking out pictures of characters from Tangled, and hunting for little Pascals (Rapunzel's chameleon) everywhere.  Disney did a great job incorporating Tangled into the park!

Tangled come to life in Fantasyland

A few attempts at a family picture... Ramona was NOT into it.
By late afternoon, the girls had just about had enough, which was good timing, as Chad's parents needed to head to the airport.  We hopped on the train in Frontierland and rode it two-thirds of the way around the park back to the main entrance, returning to the hotel for dinner and BED. 

Riding the Magic Kingdom train with my sweet littlest

My big girl.  She walked EVERYWHERE all week and never complained once.  So glad that we took her!
The girls each got to pick out ONE toy on our last day at the park.  Even though we already have each of these princesses (in not just one size, but two or three sizes for most), Ramona had to have these.  Pretty much just because of Belle.  Because her dress is yellow, and yellow is Ramona's favorite.  She certainly knows what she wants! 

While Friday marked our last day at Disney, it was not our last day in Florida.  I had originally hoped to make it to the beach on Saturday for some low-key sandcastle-building and seashell-hunting, but even the closest beaches are about an hour away from Orlando (and the one I wanted to go to was closer to two hours away), and Louisa spiked a mild fever on Friday night.  Needless to say, we decided that spending several hours in the car and then out in the sun might not be the best thing for her.  So we ended up staying at the hotel. 
Luckily, there were plenty of things to do there!  So we took turns relaxing with Louisa indoors while the others entertained Amelia and Ramona: swimming in the pool, playing on the playground, going on a surrey bicycle ride around the property...
So much to do in Florida!
 Louisa seemed to be back to normal by the evening, so we ventured out to dinner at the T-Rex Café in Downtown Disney.  I can't say that I would do it again... When I put our name in, I was told that we would have about a 40-minute wait.  Okay, not so bad.  There was quite a bit to look at outside, including people in elaborate costumes posing as statutes and giant Lego displays.  I assumed that, when our name was called about 45 minutes later, that our table was ready.  Nope.  Instead, it was our turn to stand in this OTHER line, along the entrance of the restaurant.  After roughly 45 MORE minutes, our table was finally ready.  At this point, it was after 7:00, and more than an hour later than the girls usually eat dinner.  Amazingly, they held it together relatively well. 
Dinner at the T-Rex Café in Downtown Disney
And the inside WAS pretty cool.  There were several different areas of the restaurant -- including an aquarium part, an "ice cave" part, and the jungle part where we were seated -- and there were big animatronic dinosaurs around every corner.  Then, every 20 minutes or so, the lights would dim and there would be an "meteor shower," during which all of the dinosaurs would move and roar.  It was awfully loud the whole time, but the food was actually pretty good and the girls had fun, which was what the whole trip was all about, anyway!
Thus ended our visit to Disney/Orlando... On Sunday morning, we got up, said goodbye to my parents as they left for the airport, finished packing, and headed to the airport ourselves.  We all had a great time, but it was one of those vacations where you get home and feel like you need another vacation, you know?  We'll definitely go back, but probably not for a few more years... Like, when everyone can walk on their own.  J
And now I'm only about a month and a half (and at least five posts) behind... Hope to catch up more soon!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Universal and Louisa's Very First Birthday

Thursday was the day that I was most looking forward to during our Florida trip.  Why, you ask?  It was Louisa's first birthday.  AND we celebrated it by paying a visit to Hogwarts (aka, Universal Orlando)!  SO cool!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When the birthday girl got up, she got a special breakfast: Munchkins!  All of our Boston-born girls love their Dunkin Donuts. 

Birthday breakfast for the brand new one-year-old!

After breakfast, we set off for Universal.  Making a great day even better, we were joined by Nickie, a very dear friend of mine from college, and her husband Steve, who live outside of Fort Myers and made the drive up to spend the day us. 

Our first stop in Universal was Seuss Landing.  I was anxious to get to Harry Potter world, but Seuss Landing was pretty cool itself, was more age-appropriate for the girls, and we had to go through it to get to Hogwarts, anyway!  Also, first thing in the morning, there were NO lines.  (I think that was the only time that happened the whole week we were in Orlando.)  So we got (unexpectedly) SOAKED on the One Fish, Two Fish ride, zipped through a life-size version of The Cat in the Hat, and rode a carousel full of Seussian creations. 

We had these rides in Seuss Landing almost entirely to ourselves!

When I couldn't stand it any longer, we walked up the path to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter... 

Entering Hogsmeade!  I was giddy.

All aboard!

In a word: Amazing!

The rides really weren't anything spectacular (although we didn't ride the roller coaster that actually went through the castle -- it had a two hour wait!) and it was a little too crowded (long lines kept us out of Ollivander's), but I felt like I had stepped into the imagination of J.K. Rowling (or onto the movie set, anyway) when walking through Hogsmeade and looking up at Hogwarts.  The detail that went into the design of the whole thing was super impressive.

Hogwarts!  I SO wish I could attend...

Because the wait for the main roller coaster ride was so long (and I don't think the girls could have ridden anyway), we opted to take the "walking tour" of Hogwarts.  Really, you just walk next to the line waiting for the roller coaster, but it was still neat to see the talking pictures and other Harry Potter stuff throughout the castle.  We also had a butterbeer in Hogsmeade, bought a chocolate frog and some Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans (which look suspiciously like Jelly Bellies) at Honeydukes, and walked by Hagrid's hut while we were there.

Nickie and me enjoying our butterbeer: Cheers to catching up with old friends!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  WONDERFUL!

AND, Amelia rode her first real rollercoaster: the Flight of the Hippogriff.  Nothing that went upside down or super fast, but it was a real rollercoaster!  She said that it was fun, but she did not want to ride it again.  In all honesty, I think her favorite part was seeing the huge hippogriff sitting in its nest while we waited in line.  She kept asking if it was "real."  J    

Amelia and Nickie post-rollercoaster ride.  Amelia said it "shook up her brain"!

After a leisurely lunch at a covered picnic table down an alley and behind Gringotts Bank (they've got a perfect set-up back there), the grandparents took the girls back to Seuss Landing so we could ride a more adult rollercoaster.  After wandering through the underground line for what felt like miles and hours (since you couldn't see far enough ahead of or behind you to judge how far you had to go or had already traveled), we made it to the Dragon Challenge.  I really love a good rollercoaster.  The more loops and twists and corkscrews, the better!   

The birthday girl at lunch
Tip for tackling theme parks with little ones: Bring some new little toys with you.  Giving the girls new toys at the parks kept them from begging to buy thing incessantly and also provided sufficient entertainment when in long lines!

We met back up with the girls and the grands at Seuss Landing, where they had ridden the Sneetches ride and were having a blast at the If I Ran the Zoo play/water area.  I guess we should have brought their swimsuits, but they didn't mind getting their clothes (extremely) wet.  It was hot enough that I kind of wished it would have been socially acceptable for me to do the same...    

Getting soaked and loving every minute of it.

We walked through Marvel Super Hero Island on our way out of Universal, and got lucky -- Spiderman had just arrived!  We waited in a not-too-long line so Amelia could meet him and have him sign her autograph book.  After three days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, Amelia's main concern when we were in the Wizarding World was where Harry Potter was, and she was bummed that we never found him, so Spiderman was a good consolation prize.  J  After that, we finally made it back to the car.  It was a very busy first birthday for Louisa!

No birthday would be complete without cake, though, and our little one-year-old got her very own cupcake back at the hotel.  Louisa was completely unsure about what to do with the candle (we blew it out for her after she tried to grab the flame), but the same was NOT true for the cake or the frosting.  I felt a little bad that she had a store-bought cupcake for her birthday -- her sisters have always had cakes that were homemade and somewhat elaborately decorated -- but Louisa didn't seem to mind in the least!
She is not timid.  And/or she just REALLY loves sugar.  That's my girl!

Yes, she went straight into the tub after she finished her cake.  And after she was adequately cleaned, Louisa even got to open some gifts!  Nickie and Steve brought her a set of squeaky rubber blocks and a stuffed purple dog that can be programmed/personalized.  Both have become favorite toys, but especially that dog.  I'm not sure if it's because it says her name all the time or because it plays the Itsy Bitsy Spider (currently her favorite song), but she LOVES it. 

Altogether, I'd say that Louisa had a pretty great first birthday.  At least, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Too bad she won't remember it, but we'll just have to take her back another time...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Pool and "Apricot"

Visiting Disney World was obviously the girls' favorite part about our trip to Florida, but the hotel pool came in as a close second. 

Sweet sisters, walking to the pool (and hunting for lizards on the way)

They love their swim lessons at the Y, but there's just something about an outdoor pool that makes it infinitely more fun than an indoor pool.  Add in grandparents to play with them, a little island complete with plants, and a waterfall, and they thought it was paradise! 

LOVING the pool
Needless to say, we spent many hours at the pool.
Climbing up the pool chairs
Amelia has told me more than once over the last month that she wishes we lived in Florida.  When I asked why?  Because then we could have a pool!

The pool waterfall, from the front and the back!

After two days at Magic Kingdom, we decided to take the morning off from amusement parks.  Turned out to be a good decision, since it decided to rain on Wednesday morning.  A good decision for most of us, anyway...  Chad, his dad, and mine had picked Wednesday morning to golf.  They got rather wet, but had a good time anyway!  As a bonus, the girls each got a solid, much needed nap. 

Relaxing in the hotel with Louisa

After the guys had a chance to clean up after their round of golf, we headed to Epcot - which Amelia initially called Apricot - to see some more princesses and some other characters and to have dinner.
Such a cool-looking building!

Before we got to Disney, I had purchased a couple of little notebooks for the girls to collect character autographs if they wanted, but I suspected that they wouldn't really be terribly interested in doing so.  Boy, was I wrong!  Amelia became obsessed with collecting signatures from every character possible, and because Amelia was doing it, Ramona wanted to, too!

Waiting out a brief rainstorm in a store in "Morocco"

One of the characters Amelia most wanted to "meet" was Mulan, and the only place that we could find her (at least while we were there) was Epcot, so that was where we went!  The girls also got to see Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto (who Louisa loved), and Aladdin and Jasmine while we were there.  And let me tell you, Aladdin was a tough one to see!  After having the line closed just in front of us twice (once at Magic Kingdom and once at Epcot), we finally managed to meet with Aladdin and Jasmine in "Morocco".  Worth it, I guess, because the girls had a great time with them, talking about where Abu (the monkey) and Rajah (the tiger) were.  (Abu had eaten all of the funnel cakes at Epcot earlier in the day, and so he wasn't feeling well.  And they had to leave Rajah in Agrabah because they brought their four-tassel carpet instead of their eight-tassel carpet, and he can't ride on the four-tassel rug!)  We learned that meeting the characters was a lot more fun when the girls had a question or two in mind beforehand!

Characters at Epcot

By the time we finished with the characters, it was past the girls' bedtime (even though it was still light outside!), so we got some frozen lemonade to enjoy on the walk back to the parking lot and returned to the hotel.

Next up - Universal!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Our Disney Trip (Days One and Two)

We spent the last week of May in sunny Orlando, Florida, mostly at... you guessed it, Disney World!  (I know, I know, I'm way behind - AGAIN.  I took over 1000 pictures during our week in Florida, though, and it took me a while to work up the nerve to tackle sorting through and editing all of them.)

We flew down the Sunday before Memorial Day.  My parents got into town the same day, and Chad's arrived the next day, which was GREAT.  But even though we had six adults to wrangle three kids, we were still exhausted at the end of every day!  Attributable, I guess, to the heat and the crowds and the lines...

Despite all of that, we really had a such a fun time.  Amelia especially.  She adored every minute of our trip - highlights for her were lunch at Cinderella's castle and meeting as many characters as possible - and was SO well-behaved!   

Ramona?  Not so much.  She really liked certain parts (the characters, some rides) but didn't care for the heat or the noise.  Or the dark rides.  So she was perfectly happy half of the time, and super grumpy for the other half.  Poor Grandpa (Chad's dad) bore the brunt of her moodiness, quite literally: Often, Grandpa carrying her was the only thing that prevented Ramona from dissolving into a teary mess.  And Ramona is NOT a small child.  :) 

Louisa actually handled the whole amusement park vacation better than I expected.  She was generally content as long as I had her.  She ended up in the carrier most of the time, checking everything out and falling asleep when she was tired. 

Oh, did you want to see pictures? 

Here you go!  Pictures from Days One and Two, at Magic Kingdom:

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!

On Main Street, USA

Meeting Belle and Gaston (he was my favorite of all of the characters - hysterical!) and going on some rides

Archery practice and meeting Merida!

My three little princesses! 

Lunch at Cinderella's Castle and quality time with a few princesses - Amelia's favorite part of the whole trip!

Post-lunch - see what I mean about Ramona being grumpy?  (Skipping naps is hard for her.)

A couple last shots as we headed back to the hotel after Day One

Meeting some fairies and some princesses - the girls loved Rapunzel's hair and Tinker Bell's wings

Meeting Buzz Lightyear (Louisa LOVED him) and riding on spaceships and magic carpets
The coolest balloon ever and a REAL GLASS SLIPPER!!!
Do you think she's enjoying herself?
More to follow soon, I promise!