Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Missouri Botanical Garden Chinese Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined

Big news! The Chinese Lantern Festival has been extended through the end of the month! Fans of Craves, Caves, & Graves may remember that we covered the 2012 Chinese Lantern Festival, and heck yes, it was amazing at night time! A once in a lifetime opportunity, until they decided to do it twice! But.... when you have a new baby, maybe $52 for two adults is a bit rich for your blood and you're wondering if visiting in the daytime is just as good. Honestly, if you can swing it you should see it at night. HOWEVER,  the Garden is free on Saturday morning, and the lanterns are really quite impressive in daylight. I was happy to spend the money we saved on lunch at Sassafras, because their chicken salad is soooo good.

The Botanical Garden on Saturday morning is very much the stroller and gray hair set. I was surprised that even though the parking lot seemed full, the garden didn't seem crowded at all. It was very peaceful, and that may be compared to my memory of seeing the first lantern festival at night. Expect the evening to be crowded!

I have to give a shout out to the Flap Happy hats they sell in the gift shop. We've had a heck of a time finding a good sunhat to fit a newborn and with SPF 50 protection, this is worth every bit of $20. Lilly wears it every day, and it's funny to see the reactions of people who see a big floppy hat sticking out of a ring sling!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gateway Grizzlies

Do you love baseball and want to take your kids, but can't take out a second mortgage for major league stadium prices? Check out the Gateway Grizzlies! Their stadium in Sauget is directly across from the Arch and their ticket, food, and beer prices won't break the bank! You can even get a picnic table for 6 ($36) or 8 ($48) for a casual night with friends.

We attended the opening night game, with the baby, and I couldn't even tell you what team they played. I was there for a) the Best Nachos in Baseball, and b) the Best Burger in Baseball. You may have heard of the burger, a bacon and sharp cheddar number on a Krispie Kreme donut. For some reason I had envisioned this as being sticky, but of course, perfectly sensibly, they cut the donut in half like a bagel and turn it glazed-side in. I could not feel my blood slow in my veins as I expected. It's ... fine. I would eat it again. The nachos, I agree, are the Best Nachos in Baseball. I was skeptical of the philly steak, but they get two high marks from me for the white cheese (I hate that "nacho" cheese) and using red peppers instead of green.

Honorable mention for Best Item Not Labeled Best In Baseball: Funnel Cake Fries.

After we loaded up on the Best, we walked around the rest of the park and realized, holy smokes, the options are endless. We will definitely be going back to sample all the other concessions! Baseball? What baseball?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Tips From Franceth Manor

I see a blog going around Facebook that's all the reasons Christmas sucks for moms. My kid is only 5 months old, so I don't profess to be an expert, but I am really not into busy bragging and negativity. Rather than share that link and be critical, I decided to tell you the reasons my Christmas was excellent.

1. My husband who doesn't suck. If you're going to have a spouse, you should pick one who doesn't suck. Mine helps with decorations, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, baby baths and poopy diapers, basically everything. Sure, maybe sometimes I follow behind him to make adjustments, but a husband who doesn't suck is a huge time saver!

2. My job that doesn't suck. Trust me, I know how a rigid office schedule and awkward holiday parties can make the holidays stressful. Become your own boss! The best thing about being self employed is that I don't have to shop when 90% of other people are shopping. I went to the mall for fun three days before Christmas, and I sang songs the whole time I was looking for a parking spot. That, my friends, is a low stress life. Plus, I sell stuff that is essentially a luxury item, and rarely am I yelled at for it.

3. ONE CHILD! I hear some of the weirdest reasons for having more than one kid. Your only child will have friends and a support network in life even if you don't provide them biological relatives, I promise. And it makes holiday travel so much easier!

4. My family is not crazy about gifts. The extended family does a $10 fun gift exchange, and the great aunts & uncles kick in for one present for the littles. For immediate family, this year I tried to buy almost all gifts from small businesses, direct sales, or fair trade. It made gift giving more thoughtful than it had been in years, which felt good! Francis and I have never really done gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas. Instead, we travel, and this year we are going to Disneyland.  Experiences. Travel. Dinner out. Museum memberships. So many things that are not just buying random crap on Amazon or swapping gift cards.

5. I donate to charity and did a food pantry can drive because it makes me feel good. I hope I will teach Lilly to be charitable from the heart. I know for sure that me bitching about having to buy canned goods for poor people on my mommy blog would not be teaching her anything worthwhile. Kids aren't dumb.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Holidays, I Can't Get My Sh!t Together

We (I) spent so much time trying to decide which photos to use, it is now too late to order, receive, address, and mail Christmas cards. Here are this year's contenders:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Franceth Manor!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Newsletter: Month 4

Dear Lilly:

Today you turned 4 months old! The last couple weeks of October we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun, but November is not anyone's favorite month around here, so we have been spending more time indoors. You learned a lot of things this month! You are babbling like crazy, learning to play with toys, sit in your Bumbo seat and exersaucer, and have started to spit out your binkie just to get a hand to hug.

We had one week this month that felt like it was spent entirely in the pediatrics lab at Mercy. We saw a GI specialist about your weight, and you had to have several time consuming lab tests, two of which had to be redone. Mercy feels like a second home now! They have a nice play area in the lab, the staff is nice, and I like the chocolate Elvis smoothie from the coffee shop. I don't wish you to spend anymore time there, but for routine lab work it's not an unpleasant place, and you were really a trooper for such a little baby. We even spent naptime by a waterfall outside the lab one day, just because you fell asleep when I stopped to check my email. It seems all you needed was some more calories, and we are back on track now!

On the fun side, we had our first family trip to the zoo and went to Owlfest at Treehouse Wildlife where your owl hat was a huge hit. Sometimes we go out and do things just because you love to look at faces other than mom and dad, and your delight stops people in their tracks. I hope you spread that kind of joy your whole life!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A festival of birds at Treehouse Wildlife

If there's one thing I love to photograph, it's animals. I like the challenge of capturing wildlife reacting in their natural state. There's no posing or ego to animals, just their own movement in their surroundings.

Which is why Owl Fest at the Treehouse Wildlife Center, nestled on the Mississippi River bluffs between Grafton and Alton was a perfect chance to grab some shots of owls, hawks and other birds of prey being showcased.

Treehouse Wildlife has been in operation since 1979 and combines both wildlife rehabilitation and public education. They rely on public donation and volunteers rather than government funding, and their yearly Owl Fest not only gives you a chance to meet the birds, but also enjoy music, local vendors and great food.

Even if you missed Owl Fest this year, it's still a great place to visit. The Fall colors are in full effect and there are precious few days left to enjoy the Great River Road before winter. If you get a chance, get out there soon.

Most Bird sanctuaries take in animals who are injured and would not survive the wild, like this bald eagle missing a wing

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fightin' Weight

For the last six weeks or so I have been slaving to get Lilly's weight up. I started to type out everything we've been doing, but as with most things involving parenting and the internet, I had to go back and say, "Is this boring? Yes." If you have a 3 month old baby who just won't gain and you need some ideas, feel free to comment. For the purposes of today's blog, let's just say that my baby was sleeping through the night and then I had to go back to a newborn schedule, which is pretty much akin to torture. As I have mentioned before, though, hormones are a bitch and once you start the breastfeeding, your brain becomes convinced that there is no other way. Also, formula is EXPENSIVE. So I pumped.

After 6 weeks of weekly weight checks where she was gaining 1-2 oz a week when she should be gaining 5-7, the pediatrician sent us to a GI specialist, who started in with the "failure to thrive" and "we'll have to hospitalize her" talk. It's amazing that I did not cry. Lab work was ordered, including a sweat test for cystic fibrosis that was not explained at all, and I was turned away from the lab that day because they don't start the sweat test after 1pm. Then the next day, I was there for five hours because the bag for urine collection kept leaking, and then the third day it took two tries AGAIN. This week has been hellish.

BUT. But. The thing the GI doctor prescribed in the interim was just to add formula to the milk I am pumping. 1 scoop per ounce of breastmilk that I pump, and I pump about 6 oz a day. The rest of the time she breastfeeds. And do you know, according to our home scale, this baby has packed on 12 oz in 5 days? How is that even possible from a grand total of 30 oz of breastmilk with formula in it?? It seems impossible, but you can see it. She is fatter. I can't wait to hear how they explain this.