Friday, December 30, 2011

Letters To Tory: Four Months

Tory,

Where have the last four months gone? I remember thinking about the holidays when you were just a few weeks old -- imagining how "big" you'd be by then -- and here we are, at the end of December. You're growing up so quickly.

This was a big month for you, baby girl. At 13 weeks old, you saw snow for the very first time. Being a Minnesota girl, this probably won't be such a big deal to you someday but it was on December 1st -- it was your very first time. Will you be a skier like Daddy or prefer to stay indoors and bake cookies like Mom? Only time will tell. Also at 13 weeks, you began to stand on your legs and started to reach for toys when we dangle them in front of you. You'd rather sit up and play than lay back and relax, which is why I suspect you have such a hard time sitting still in your car seat for long (although, luckily you're tolerating it much better these days). You've discovered Chloe the dog and you love to watch her run across the living room floor. For now, the two of you are merely exchanging glances but I have a feeling you'll be befriending her someday very soon. One of your biggest accomplishments this month was finally, FINALLY finding your fingers. Hallelujah! I'm not super excited about you sucking on your hands (as we'll eventually have to break you of that habit) but at least you're learning how to soothe yourself. You've always got to be different, kiddo. Instead of sucking on your thumb like other babies, you prefer to suck on all four of your fingers AT ONCE. We can't help but laugh sometimes when you get them in there so far you gag yourself. But hey, whatever works.

On December 14th, you rolled over from tummy to back for the first time. Mommy and Daddy were so proud of you! It's a skill we're still working on perfecting as you're usually less than thrilled when it happens. All in good time, little girl, you'll get there eventually.


Along with your milestone developments this month, you've now wearing size 3-6 months clothes. Sleep has been a bit of a challenge as you went from a baby who refuses to nap but slept (mostly) through the night to one who awoke every two hours. Part of the reason for this was teaching you to sleep unswaddled but you seem to be getting used to it now. You're now sleeping for 12 hours at night, going to bed around 8pm, waking up around 1am and 6am to eat, and finally up for the day around 8am. You're becoming a better napper too which makes you a much happier baby, taking a short morning and late afternoon snooze with a two hour nap sandwiched in between. Your favorite activities  include hanging out with Mommy in the Baby Bjorn or ring sling carrier, reading books and playing with toys that light up and sing.

This month, you also celebrated your very first Christmas. Of course you were the star of the party and everyone spoiled you like crazy. You took your fourth plane ride to Nebraska and you were an excellent traveler like always. What a lucky girl you are to be surrounded by so many who love you.

What will your fifth month bring, baby girl? I can hardly wait to find out. You've an absolute blessing in our lives and I'm so thankful to God for allowing me to be your mother.

With all my heart, I love you.
Mommy

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011 - Part Two

We returned home from our Nebraska Christmas celebration Monday night. Exhausted, but we had a blast. Click play on the video to see all the fun we had with my family.



Since we're only "home" on Christmas every other year, I really try to soak it all in. Here are some of my favorite memories this year:
  • Tory slept through the entire Christmas Eve church service! I was so thankful so I didn't have to take her out and was able to sing all my favorite Christmas church songs. One of my favorite parts of the holiday for sure.
  • The sound of my relatives laughing and talking. As I was nursing Tory in an upstairs bedroom on Christmas Eve, I had goosebumps as I listened to everyone I love downstairs celebrating together. It instantly transported me back to my grandparent's house where we celebrated so many Christmases when I was a little girl.
  • Santa came! My uncle Norm dressed up as Santa this year and stopped by for a visit on Christmas Eve. The little kids were so surprised! Brookie (4 1/2 years) was at a loss for words at first; Lauren (1 year) was scared to death and Tory (3 1/2 months) could have cared less. After Santa left, Brooke figured out the big secret and kept saying "It was Norm!" We had to keep reminding her Norm got called into work, remember? I laugh every time I watch that part in the video.
  • Tory took a 4 hour nap on Christmas Day! She was so beat from Christmas Eve (when she stayed up until 11pm - she didn't want to miss a minute), she slept right through our celebration with my dad's side of the family on Christmas Day. Longest nap ever for that little girl.
  • It was 50 degrees in Nebraska! Of course it was excellent travel weather since we decided to skip the seven-hour drive and fly instead. But, so is life! We enjoyed being able to take a quick flight to and from Lincoln and even saw the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the airport (they were in route to the Capitol One Bowl taking place later this week).
  • The way Tory Bean laughed and laughed when my mom made silly faces at her. It was her first true belly laugh ... and so dang cute.
  • Staying up until 3am Christmas Eve night to open gifts. We started opening them up after our Christmas Eve celebration a few years ago since there were no little kids around and none of us wanted to get up early in the morning. Except now Brookie's 4 years old and the poor thing didn't know what end was up - she was opening gifts half-asleep. I was exhausted too from traveling and getting up with Tory Bean a few times a night. So, we decided next year we're going to go back to opening gifts during the daytime.
  • I found this adorable hand-sewn Christmas Advent Calendar on Etsy and received one from Andi's parents this year. I am so in love with it - it's one of my favorite gifts I received this year. Each date on the calendar has a little pocket and I plan to place a Christmastime activity in each one next year for Tory, Andi and I to complete together. Obviously it'll be even more fun as she grows and the activities change as she does. I was so excited about it, I also bought my sister one for Christmas. I hope she enjoys it too.
  • I bought the girls (Brooke, Lauren and Tory) matching pajamas for Christmas Eve and they were so cute!
  • Brookie is very into musical instruments right now (I guess it's because of one of her favorite shows, Fresh Beat Band). Anyway, she received a Cinderella guitar from my parents and it was a big hit with everyone ... almost more fun for the adults than Brooke! She also received a Disney vanity with a built-in keyboard from Santa and on Monday, my entire family was singing and playing kiddie musical instruments in her room. It was one of the those moments where I looked around and wondered what the heck we were all doing. Good thing the video camera wasn't out for that moment! 
  • Andi and I exchanged gifts when we got back to town on Monday night. He gave me a beautiful August birthstone necklace (Tory's) with a silver T heart on it. I wanted to get him snowshoes as I thought this would be something fun to do together at the cabin this winter but I opted for an Apple Trackpad instead. He seemed happier ... and let's face it, we aren't really the exercise type so it was probably a good choice. We gave Tory a Tiffany's charm bracelet (just the chain for now) for Christmas. I'm excited to collect charms for her throughout the years. I think she'll really enjoy wearing it someday too.
Hard to believe Tory will be Lauren's age next year at Christmas. I can't wait to see her running around and opening presents. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tory - 17 Weeks

Tory - 17 Weeks


Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas 2011 - Part One

It's our turn to visit my family in Nebraska this Christmas, so we celebrated the holiday with Andi's family here in town last weekend. I enjoy each family's get together for different reasons: on my side, I'm very steadfast in tradition (but we've always done it that way!) vs. Andi's family who embraces new ideas and adds traditions along the way. A few years ago when Andi's sister graduated college and moved back to the Twin Cities, we started doing a progressive Christmas dinner where we ate one course (appetizers, entree or desserts) at a different house (his sister's, his parent's or ours) so we could all see each other's homes decorated for the holidays and have a chance to entertain without all the hassle of the big production. Although with a new baby this year and returning to work, I just didn't have it in me to entertain at our house so Andi's mom volunteered to host it all this year (much to the disappointment of Andi's sister - sorry Linds!). We arrived at Janie and Jim's around 10:30am on Sunday to begin our celebration. Janie had snacks for us to munch on and a full bloody mary bar set out. I never turn down an opportunity to eat beef sticks and cheese marinated in booze ...


While Tory took her morning nap, we took advantage and opened our stockings. It's so interesting how every family has their own traditions when it comes to Christmas. Andi's family buys smaller gifts for each other, wraps them up and stuffs them in stockings (where as in my family, my mom does all the buying and the gifts are usually toiletries, socks, etc). We had to laugh, Andi listed bath salts on his Christmas wish list this year. My mom asked me a few weeks ago who would buy him bath salts for Christmas. "Andi's family would," I said. That's the type of things you get in stockings at their house - bath salts, an Ove Glove and ear muffs (like these adorable ones I received this year. Thanks to Tory for modeling).



Afterwards, we moved our party downstairs to open more gifts. It's crazy wonderful how blessed we are this year to have our health, a loving family around us and the addition of Tory Bean to our family. We didn't need any presents, but received the most thoughtful gifts nonetheless.

Lindsay made Janie a photo book capturing their trip to Europe together this spring.

Chloe got a new fuzzy blanket from Janie and Jim and sported her Santa dress from Andi's little cousin Mia. She was in heaven, obviously (except for the part where we made her wear that doggie outfit all day).

Daddy and Tory Bean opening gifts.

Andi's parents gave Tory the amazing gift of travel. They opened a savings accounts in her name with $200 and gave her a travel journal to document her life's adventures (Janie will write in it until she's old enough to do so herself). They wanted her to be able to backpack through Europe someday (or wherever else life's adventure takes her) and they'll add to the account as she grows. Isn't this the greatest gift?

Tory also received a Wood From The Hood growth chart (made from wood from a Twin Cities zip code), some jammies and Smart Wool socks, a handmade quilt, toys, stuffed animals and this singing puppy dog from Andi's grandma which SHE LOVES.


Tory hanging out on her new handmade quilt.

This year, Janie went above and beyond our fondue dinner tradition and served cheese and oil (to cook the meat in), along with ten different homemade dipping sauces for our meats, breads and vegetables. It was delicious! Another Christmas miracle? Tory took a snooze while we ate dinner so I actually ate hot food!


I am so fortunate to be part of this wonderful family. They welcomed me into their family six years ago and we've shared some wonderful memories together. Christmas 2011, Part 1 is in the books. Now we're jet-setting to Nebraska to celebrate with my family this weekend ... can't wait!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sleep and Rolling Over

Tory Bean rolled over for the first time last week!

Except, she hasn't done it since. She's not a big fan of laying on her tummy (says the world to me: babies usually love laying on their tummies! Well once again, mine doesn't. I must have a strange baby on my hands). I'm not too concerned about it because I know she'll eventually get there. If there's one thing I've learned about Tory, she's strong-minded like her daddy. She has to come to decisions in her own time.

So with this rolling over business, we decided to plunge into the unchartered waters of un-swaddling. Swaddled up, Tory had figured out how to rock and roll herself from back to tummy and I didn't feel comfortable chancing her rolling over in the night, even though she only did it once. The first few nights were rough. Tory woke herself up every hour and a half and I was a stammering pile of sleep-deprived mommy. But things seem to be getting better now and she's only waking up two to three times a night - which I can handle. I also think she was getting cold since her hands weren't swaddled underneath her blanket. So I started dressing her in a long-sleeve onesie underneath her jammies, turning the heat up another notch at night and leaving her bedroom door open to allow air to circulate. All of those things seem to be helping her sleep more soundly.

In the last few days, I've also realized just how quickly I jump out of bed and run to her crib in the night. When I was on maternity leave, I never minded multiple wake-ups because I could catch up on sleep throughout the day. I also didn't want to wake Andi because he had to work the next day. Plus, Tory was still a few weeks old and I didn't feel comfortable letting her cry it out. However, when I went back to work, I started to watch the overnight clock more closely (read: holy crap, I've been up every two hours and now I have to stay awake, drive to work and actually be productive for 10 hours without drowning myself in gallons of caffeine). As I watched Tory on the video monitor one night, I realized she was just stirring and fussing a bit but still sleeping. I really never watched her before, just hopped up and went to her. I talked about it with Andi and we agreed to let her fuss (not cry) herself back to sleep (when I knew she wasn't hungry) to see how many times she'd actually wake up. "Don't worry about me!" said Andi as stuffed in earplugs into his ears. Gee, thanks honey.

Honestly though, Tory's sleep patterns have become better every day. I feel good about dropping the swaddle. We're well on our way to a happy, sleeping, roly poly baby.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tory - 16 Weeks Old

Tory - 16 Weeks Old


Newborn Baby Gift Ideas

So like everything else this holiday season, I'm cutting it down to the wire when it comes to buying Christmas presents. I'm about 3/4 done with only two days left to shop. Those two days are work days for me, plus I have a newborn and we'll be aboard an airplane for part of the time. Sounds like I'll be finishing my holiday shopping at my parent's hometown Wal-Mart.

I had two problems this year: time and money (or lack of it). Don't those sound like fairly good reasons to be behind the eight ball? To this day, for one reason or another, Andi and I each buy our own family's Christmas presents. We started doing this when we were dating (obviously) but never combined our finances when we got married and therefore, we just kept buying for our own family members. We celebrated Andi's family Christmas last weekend and his presents were all bought and wrapped under the tree. I bought all my gifts online and shipped them to Nebraska since we're flying and somewhere down the line realized I didn't hit "checkout" for half my gifts. Researched them, added them to the online shopping cart and .... nothing. So, you know, scrambling a little bit at the last minute around here.

But, I digress.

What I really wanted to talk about is newborn baby gift ideas. I haven't bought Tory anything for Christmas this year except a 2011 Hallmark "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornament and some holiday pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. What are some good gift ideas for a newborn baby? I'd rather not buy her clothes or toys as I'm sure she'll rake in a boatload of those from our relatives. Should I get her something memorable? A keepsake? I want to get her SOMETHING from us because it's her very first Christmas ... just not sure what.

Ideas?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Milk

THANK YOU to everyone for your advice and encouragement about my breastfeeding blues last week. I'm feeling better about it, mostly, although pumping like a mad woman at work is still very overwhelming. You can see why so many people just throw in the towel when they return to work. It's a BIG COMMITMENT to find the time and patience to be glued to that stupid boob machine. But! I am committed to nursing my baby and therefore, I'll make it work. Plus, it's only been three weeks so I should probably cut myself some slack and allow time to adjust.

If you've never been to kellymom.com or milkworks.com and you're breastfeeding, I suggest you make it a point to read the wealth of awesome information that's out there. After doing so, I realized my milk supply wasn't so unusual. I guess in my head I envisioned a fountain of milk, always available at the ready, and now I'm realizing that's not exactly the case (at least for me). Also, frequency of pumping sessions vs. the duration of each one makes a big difference in building/maintaining your supply, which is something I didn't realize. That explains my sore nipples and little output! That was the biggest eye opener for me and after making this small change, I was already able to get more milk yesterday.
A few things are helping me move forward: 
1) Many of you recommended fenagreek pills to boost milk supply and I ordered some. I've also been eating oatmeal for breakfast (which is such a simple thing to do - I can't believe it'll be so helpful)!

2) Jen's words are ringing in my ear every time I become overwhelmed about pumping and milk storage. "You don't need 100 bags of milk stored in the freezer, you just need enough to get through the next day." This is so true - thanks Jen! Those few words help me take it one day at a time.

3) While I appreciate the pumping space my co-workers created in our office for me to use, it's a little distracting (if not exposing) to pump within ear-shot of other people. I can hear people talking on the phone and co-workers ask me questions while I'm trying to focus on pumping. Last week, one of our college-age marketing interns even walked in on me mid-session. Luckily, I'm not a very modest person, but I'm sure she was definitely surprised to see her boss in such a position. Late last week, one my co-workers mentioned seeing a sign in the bathroom in another building about lactation. I did a little digging and it turns out there are a few "lactation rooms" scattered around campus. I used the one closest to my office last Thursday and while I can't say it's a glamorous space (it smells like moth balls in there!), it is a lockable room where I can go to quietly pump.

More water, better diet, oatmeal for breakfast, pills and pump, pump, pump.

Bottom line, I'll make it work.

Andi's jonesing to take an overnight trip downtown one of these days and while a night of uninterrupted sleep sounds wonderful, I don't think I'm ready for it. We'd also tentatively planned on taking a long weekend trip somewhere warm for my birthday in Februrary and the thought of doing so about sends me in a tailspin. It's not that I'm afraid to leave Tory (I'd feel totally confident in leaving her with either sets of our parents) but the idea of storing up enough milk to get through one night - let alone a long weekend! - is too much right now. I'll get there eventually. Maybe at the six-month mark when she's starting solids too? We'll see. For now, I'm taking it one day at a time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rolling Baby!

We have a rolling baby!
REPEAT: We have a rolling baby!

video

Tory Girl is not a fan of being on her tummy. She screams and hollers and smothers her face into the ground, never understanding why in the world Mommy would make her do such a terrible thing. Until Monday that is, when she realized she could lift her head up 45 degrees and see around the room. A change of perspective! Suddenly being on her tummy wasn't so bad after all. We practiced tummy time several times on Monday. I asked the nanny to practice with her on Tuesday and Wednesday and voila! On Wednesday night (not without a little prodding from my hand) she finally figured it out!

video

I'm so, so proud of my little girl and simply cannot believe she's old enough to be rolling over!

Because she isn't close to rolling over from back to tummy yet, I swaddled her for bed and watched her on the monitor to make sure she wouldn't use her new found skill to flip. While she didn't roll over in bed, she did have a very restless night of sleep (up every 2 hours) so I finally unswaddled her around 3AM. She slept just fine from 3AM - 6AM so I think swaddling will soon be a way of the past in our nighttime routine.

What a big girl!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tory - 15 Weeks Old

Tory - 15 Weeks Old


Breastfeeding Blues

People love to give unsolicited baby advice. Oh yes, they can't help themselves. It's all the time and about every topic. Usually I smile and nod and mentally file their advice under Don't Care because, as Tory's parents, Andi and I will choose how we want to raise our child. Unless, that is, someone is dishing out advice about breastfeeding. It's the one and only topic I'm willing to listen to tips and tricks from anyone because I have this constant fear that I'm doing it wrong.

Nursing my child is the most rewarding thing I've done as a mother thus far, shy of giving birth to her. I cherish the quality time we spend together, just her and I (and miss it terribly when I'm at work and pumping instead). It thrills me beyond words to know she is growing and thriving and living because of the milk she receives from me. But breastfeeding can be so frustrating too.

When I nurse her at home it's easy. She cuddles up in my arms, gazes at me with her beautiful eyes, eats and slowly falls asleep. I've never questioned she's getting enough to eat because she always seems content following her feedings and she's gaining weight. She's never fussy between feedings unless she's tired (displaying no early signs of hunger) although she rarely can go longer than 3 hours without eating (even at night). Which is fine! 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours between feedings is the recommendation from our doctor so we're doing just fine. WE'RE DOING JUST FINE.

Except, last week I returned to work and started pumping like a crazy woman, trying to collect enough milk to replace Tory's at-home bottle feedings. I found myself pumping every 3 hours, for 30-40 minutes each time and barely squeaking away with 3oz. per session (both breasts). I've always known one side produces less milk, but the amount is pitiful. I don't have any issues getting my milk to let down, it just stops after a few minutes of pumping. Last week when Andi's mom watched Tory, she said Tory could probably eat more than 3oz. per feeding. She commented how fast Tory ate and while she didn't seem fussy afterwards, she didn't seem full either.

Herein lies the problem: as hard as I try, I seriously cannot get more than 3oz. per session while pumping. How on Earth am I going to keep up with this baby when she demands 4oz, then 5, then 6? The guilty thoughts started to seed in my brain and yesterday I found myself near tears at the thought of depriving my child her only source of nutrition. I've heard others say they had a wealth of milk stashed in the freezer by the time they returned to work (why don't you just rely on that, they say) but me? I have 16 bags total. I simply cannot keep up. I'm torn when Andi offers to feed her on the weekends because I want him to have that bonding time with her too, but it'll use one of my bags of milk which I worked so hard to collect. If I pump in place of feeding her (if he gives her a bottle) it sometimes takes me several sessions to replace those 3oz. And therefore, it's so much easier if I just nurse her.

Yesterday I returned home from work with barely 9oz. in my cooler. When I asked, the nanny agreed Tory was still hungry (but not fussy) after her three feedings. I told her I would try pumping before bed to build up more milk for tomorrow but when I tried, but there was nothing there. There is simply no milk left after Tory nurses from me.

So I called our doctor to ask for advice. The nurse returned my call and reported that the doctor thought it "all sounded normal" and that only getting 3oz. per pumping session was ok. Based on Tory's size and age, they said, she doesn't need to eat more than 3oz. per feeding unless she demands it. Everything sounded fine, they said, I was doing it right. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel that way to me. I still wonder if Tory's getting enough to eat and what I'll do when she needs more milk than I'm able to give her. I know I could start supplementing formula (and I know there's nothing wrong with doing so) except I feel like a complete and total failure. My plan was to nurse Tory for 9 more months, but sadly I don't think I'm going to make it to her first birthday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa

As college-educated individuals, I like to think Andi and I have a good batch of smarts between the two of us. Except on Sunday, we did one of the dumbest things you can do around the holidays: we went to the mall to see Santa ON A WEEKEND. It basically came down to timing (read: we don't have it). I wanted it to be something we did as a family and since Andi's been working so much lately, yesterday seemed like the only day we could go. We checked Santa's hours online and found he opened shop at Noon. Our thought - our naive first-time parents thought - was we'd get there right at Noon so we'd be first in line. Bahahahahaha ... yeah, right.

After a screaming drive to the mall (Tory, not us, although we'd want to later), we walked up to Santa's area to find this:

HOLY CRAP.

The line wrapped through all the stanchions and back down the hallway. It was just this long because he wasn't open yet, right? Everyone has strollers and that's taking up extra space, right? We got in line and waited. And waited. And waited. A little while later a man asked me how long we'd been waiting in line. "Noon," I said. It was now 12:45pm and I realized we'd only made it through one set of stanchions. WE STILL HAD FIVE MORE ROWS TO GO.

Luckily Tory was happily content watching all the commotion surrounding us, and of course all the lights and sounds around the mall. I guess she's never been to the mall before; she really liked it. My ADHD husband, on the other hand, was going bonkers. I gave him a pass to go walk around for a while while Tory and I waiting in line some more. Eventually, she fell asleep in my arms WHICH NEVER HAPPENS and I laid her in the stroller for a nap. Andi returns with an Iced Coffee drink for me which I slurped down in record speed because there's nothing else to do but stand and wait. An hour passed and Tory woke up. I called Andi on the phone to tag-team him back into the line so I could go feed Tory on a nearby bench. By the way, inhaling a caffeinated beverage on an empty stomach isn't a good idea when you're trapped in a never-ending Santa line. For the record.

At 1:30PM, over an hour of waiting, this was getting silly. Do we bail? I could come back on one of my days off, but Andi would be working and he'd miss Tory's first visit with Santa. Plus, what if the weather is bad this week and I don't feel like dragging Tory out of the house and we were already there and she was all dressed up and .... CRAP, what to do? Since Tory wasn't melting down and we were already half-way to Santa, we decided to wait it out.

We feel your pain, kiddo. We're almost there.

At 2PM, a rumble started to circulate through the line of anxious parents and kids. Santa would be taking a break FOR AN HOUR at 2:30pm. If we didn't make it to the front of the line in 30 minutes, all of this waiting would be for nothing. Parents around us were starting to up roar. The line behind us still stretched on as far as it did when we began this crazy quest for Santa. Andi and I looked at each other in pure exhaustion. I cannot believe we are one of the parents who stood in line for over 2 hours to see Santa.

At 2:20pm, we finally reached him.
Tory's first visit with Santa

And it was priceless. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chex Mix & Christmas Lights

This year, I've come to the realization that holiday spirit doesn't happen unless you MAKE IT HAPPEN. Sure, Christmas will come and it'll be filled with family and fun but it doesn't feel like the holidays without tradition surrounding it. I know this because I've been moping around since the day after Thanksgiving proclaiming how un-Christmas it feels around here and then I finally realized I should do something about it. So!

I brainstormed a few holiday activities - some new, some old - to kick us into holiday gear. I did some research (which is such a role reversal in our family) and sent Andi a list of mandatory events to add to his calendar.

1. Host a holiday cookie party.
Done. Stuff Your Box Party 2011

2. Festify our house in holiday decor.
Done. 


3. Make homemade Chex Mix.

4. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.

5. Take Tory to see Santa at a local mall.

6. Visit downtown Minneapolis' Macy 8th floor holiday display.

7. Dress Tory in her snow suit, plop her in a snow bank and take a gazillion photos of her doing so.

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When we were little, my mom made homemade Chex Mix by the truckloads during the holidays. We couldn't get enough of it. Just when we thought there was no more, she'd pull out another giant Tupperware filled with salty cereal, nuts and pretzels. To this day, it's one of my favorite parts of the season.

On Saturday morning while Andi was at work, Tory and I made a trip to Target to gather ingredients to make our own homemade Chex Mix. Why on Earth I decided to wait until Saturday to buy the ingredients is beyond me. But we did it. We bundled up, strong-armed our way through massive crowds and made it back in one piece. Would you believe me if I told you Tory even fell asleep in her car seat while shopping? I hardly can myself. She's really turned over a new leaf, that one. One baby nap and an hour in the kitchen later, voila! Three gallons of Chex Mix I'll likely finish by myself. I have no will power when it comes to this stuff.

That night, the three of us (plus Chloe!) loaded into Andi's truck and set out to see all the bright lights our new neighborhood had to offer. Three weeks ago, I would've never dreamed of driving around in a car with Tory on purpose. FOR FUN EVEN! Life is so much better now that we can take her places. Unfortunately, we'd taken my car into the auto shop earlier in the day to have snow tires put on and they called to tell us it needed new brakes as well. Isn't it lovely how everything breaks around the holidays? Five hundred dollars later and some him-hahing on Andi's part (I think he was seriously contemplating not fixing them!), we had to leave my car there overnight. This forced us to take Andi's truck to drive around and see the lights instead, which wouldn't have been such a big deal except his work trailer was still attached to it. Imagine how we looked rolling through neighborhoods pulling this giant trailer. I'm sure we looked like we were casin' houses.

We opted for the express version of the holiday tour not knowing how long Tory would last in the car, so we headed over to a nearby house with lights choreographed to Christmas music. It was nice. The perfect amount of tradition all wrapped up in pajamas, hot chocolate and family time ... and a giant trailer.

Some day Tory will be so excited when these family traditions roll around on the calendar. I'll always remember the very first time we introduced them to her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Six Years

Six years ago today on December 9, 2005, I sat in the Chicago Midway airport, beginning to feel the effects from too much drinking the night before. I was with Andi, only a friend at the time, who possessed all the electricity of a new relationship minutes before it catapults into one.

Andi and I both worked for a popular energy drink company, and we were in Chicago for a regional meeting. We didn't see each other much since I lived in Sioux Falls, SD and he in Minneapolis so we took advantage of every opportunity we could to spend time together. An airplane would take us to Miami, FL that morning where we'd meet a Carnival Cruise Line ship for a four-day weekend trip to the Bahamas. But Andi and I were only friends ...

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Andi and I met in August 2004 on the 16th Street Trolley in downtown Denver. He was wearing a casual white button-down shirt with small blue flowers and jeans; I wore a green-colored jean jacket with a printed fitted tee underneath and jeans. We were both in route to our company's offices on Market Street when he introduced himself. Immediately I was taken by his charismatic personality and warm greeting. Ten minutes of small talk as we walked into the building and I knew there was something special about him.

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The chilly cab ride to Midway airport had been an interesting one. The evening before had dumped several inches of ice and snow in Chicago making travel treturous. An airplane skidded off the runway hours before, slamming into a fence (maybe a building?) and a little boy was killed. The accident caused Chicago O'Hare to close for several hours throwing flights in and out of the city in a tailspin.

After a long dinner on the top floor of the Hancock Tower and drinks following at a local oonce-oonce club, we stumbled back to the Hard Rock Hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Andi had advised me not to drink too much that night; we had an early flight to catch to Miami. Besides, we'd have to sneak away from the after-party so no one saw us leave together anyway. But for one reason or another, I didn't listen and could barely hold myself together. Damn Red Bull and vodka drinks, I was always a mess after consuming them.
Our first photo together

As Andi hurriedly packed our bags for the airport (and I laid on the bed half asleep), he was notified our flight to Miami had been canceled. He called the airline, begging and pleading to move us to another flight out that morning. If we didn't get out of Chicago soon, we'd miss our connection with the cruise ship later that day. Since O'Hare was closed, Midway was our only chance in getting out of the city.

Shortly afterwards, we hopped into a cab and headed to the airport. We saw a few co-workers stumbling into the hotel as we loaded our bags into the trunk of the cab. Who were we kidding? People knew we were together, but we really weren't ... yet.

As the cab zoomed down the freeway, the car started to do 360's across several lanes of traffic. That was enough to sober this girl up, that's for sure. We arrived at Midway and Andi told me to wait with our bags. He walked up to the ticket counter and I overheard him begging the worker to book us on a flight. He told her it was important we make it to Florida, that he planned to propose to me (fib) and that the snow storm was ruining his plans. Feeling sorry for him, the airline worker booked us on a different flight to Fort Lauderdale. We would have to take a charter bus to Miami to make our Cruise's afternoon departure. To this day I don't know how Andi managed to get us out of the airport that day; his ability to smooth-talk anyone is uncanny.

We walked to the Fort Lauderdale gate and shoved breakfast sandwiches into our mouths. Andi told me how much he liked me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I'm not sure what he saw in me that morning, but that's history now. I became his girlfriend and a few years later, his wife. I'm so lucky he chose me.

Happy six years, honey. Here's to a lifetime of adventure together.
Bahamas 2005

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My New Normal

It's Thursday (and my work Friday) which means I only need to get through today and I have four beautiful days ahead with my Tory Bean. I am crazy pants tired because the baby was up EVERY SINGLE HOUR last night so apologizes in advance for misspelled words and run-on sentences. Holy crap being a working mom is HARD, even when it's part-time.

Tuesday was my first day back to work and I was excited about it. Like a little kid the night before school starts, I packed up my work bag and gathered my breast pump and set it by the door, ready to go for Tuesday morning. I woke up at 5AM before my alarm even sounded and thought to myself, "I can do this! I am so awake and ready to be a working mom today!" I pumped and left milk for Tory in the refrigerator for Andi's mom who graciously offered to watch Tory this week to ease my transition back into the working world. I left in plenty of time so traffic wasn't bad on my drive in. No icy roadways to deal with. All was right with the world.

When I walked into my office Tuesday morning, I found pictures of Tory plastered all over the wall above my desk. My co-workers Suzanne and Jenna had been so thoughtful to tidy up my desk (where someone else had been sitting while I was away) and make it feel like home for me. So, so nice of them!


I walked behind the chalkboard dividing wall in our office (background info: I share a storm shelter office with the other Marketing Manager, Suzanne, our Dietitian, Jenna, and fifty gazillion marketing interns we have working underneath us. Yes it is really a cinder-block room underground and classified as a storm shelter. BE JEALOUS). We have a chalkboard rolling wall which segregates 1/3 of our office which we've made into a storage area to house marketing trinkets, t-shirts, etc. we use throughout the year. Anyway, I walked behind the wall to find a "pumping station" Suzanne had made for me, complete with an electrical cord, chair and table (which is actually a cart) so I can pump in our office during the day. On the chalkboard wall above the "pumping station" were more pictures of Tory. Seriously, I was so moved. So sweet of her to make those arrangements for me. I'm not super stoked to pump three times a day behind a rolling wall with other people in ear shot of me (as I'm sure THEY are not super stoked about me doing it either) but Suzanne and Jenna and all the interns have been so respectful. Much appreciated since there really isn't another place for me to pump.


Anyway, Tuesday was fun! I said hi to co-workers I haven't seen in months. Everyone asked how I was doing and wanted to see pictures of my new baby girl. "Welcome back!" shouted down the hallways wherever I went. I felt loved.

I spent most of my day Tuesday catching up on the latest office drama (holy crap a lot of stuff happened while I was away!) and checking the 852 emails I had waiting for me in my inbox. I updated our website, wrote a few press releases, BAM! I was back in the saddle.

I arrived home from work around 4:30PM and smothered Tory with kisses. I waited for Andi to come home from work too, but he didn't arrive home until 9:30pm and I was far beyond the point of wanting to share my day at that point. Husband had been working some crazy hours lately so the stress level is fairly thick in our house these days. I feel bad for him and I tried reeeeeally hard not to get upset about it. Life is busy. Be supportive. The end.

When Tory woke me up Wednesday morning around 5AM, I sort of stumbled out of bed and realized, oh, I have to go back to work today. Damn. Tuesday was fun and exciting and felt like a one-day field trip somewhere new and exciting. Wednesday was a harsh reality check: I miss my baby and oh man, I'm tired. My boss scheduled a 4:30pm meeting for Wednesday afternoon so I knew I wouldn't get home to see Tory Bean until right before she was going to bed. I snuggled her for a few extra minutes in the morning and made my way into the office. Yesterday was long. I missed my baby and found myself yawning more than appropriate. When I arrived home around 6pm, Tory was Miss Fussypants because she was tired and ready for bedtime. It was hard on me, I wont lie. All I wanted to do was snuggle and play with her and she wanted nothing of the sort.

Here I am, Thursday morning. I'm so tired I think I might pass out and drool on my keyboard any second. But I must wrap this up so I can go pump before a three-hour status meeting at 9AM. I think I might die. Andi is traveling for work this weekend so it's just me and the little one. I'll nap when she naps this weekend and snuggle her like crazy the rest and do it all over again next week. It's our new normal and it's going to take a little getting used to ...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Car Seat Conquered

We did it!

We conquered the demon that is the dreaded car seat.

I wish I could say I have wise advise for the mother who's child goes through this little episode next, but I sadly do not. I'm not sure how we've come out on the other side of this one, but the important point is that we have. Tory is no longer a car seat hater.

Well actually, if I had to guess I'd say it was a mixture of forcing her to cry it out during our drive from Miami to Key West last month, removing the infant insert and the snugly sleeping bag thingy we put in her car seat for winter. Those three factors have drastically reduced the crying, not that I recommend any of you drive in a car with a screeching baby for two and a half hours. No, that wasn't the most pleasant moment of parenting I've experienced. The winter sleeping bag thing was a hand-me-down from a co-worker and I wasn't sure I liked the looks of it so I had bought a new JJ Cole Bundle Me car seat cover for 50 freaking dollars. But now I'm so terrified of wrecking the good thing we've got going, I think I'll return it. If she likes the used one, we shall use the used one! Who cares if someone else's kids used it.

Of course, the new tolerance could be because Tory's getting older and becoming more mild-mannered these days. Within the last week she's more willing to lay on her activity mat without someone (namely, me) hovering over her. She's even chill enough to wiggle on a blanket while I do laundry and twice (TWICE!) last week she fell asleep on her own. They say babies do that, but that surely never happen to use before. Tory and I went to City Hall last week to drop off some paperwork and she even fell asleep in her car seat on the drive home. I'm still so shocked and thankful about it all it's hard to express it in words.

While this may seem like the silliest thing to talk about at length, it really is a big deal for us around here. This means we can take her places like Target and to the bank without a full-on total meltdown. I just wish she would've discovered this little trick BEFORE my maternity leave was over. I wouldn't have had to be such a hermit at home for the last 13 weeks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Day

It's finally here: my last day of maternity leave. Who knew having a baby would provide the best vacation I've even been on. Above Europe or Thailand, I've enjoyed every single minute of the last 13 weeks, late night feedings and all.

Luckily I only have three days ahead of me before four solid days with my Tory Bean. Maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow when the moment actually arrives, but I think I'm okay with life returning to normal. Maybe it's because I only have three days away from my baby (I now work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) or maybe it's because I feel really comfortable with our new nanny Allie (hope that sentence doesn't come back to bite me in the ass someday) but I don't think returning to work will be so bad. Mostly I'm excited to return to office gossip, to stimulate my brain in ways staying home with Tory hasn't, to eat lunch without bouncing a baby on my hip and to use the restroom whenever I feel like it. I want to drink coffee when it's still hot and check my email as I please. Those small things will do wonders to recharge my inner self.

That's not to say I'm not dreading waking up at the crack of dawn (which will inconveniently be an hour after Tory's 4:00am feeding) to beat suburb traffic heading into the city. I'm definitely not looking forward to hours of boring meetings where I literally want to poke pencils in my eyes or the added stress of balancing a family, a household and a career.

While most of me is ready to return to work, there's a nagging part that is sad to miss Tory's daily milestones. Just this weekend she discovered toys on her activity mat and now reaches out to grab them. Every day she does something new, every single day. I'm going to miss being right there when the lightbulb goes off and her world becomes a little bigger.

I realize how lucky I've been to spend these last 13 weeks with her. She's transformed from a teeny tiny newborn to an alert, smiley baby before my very eyes. I will always remember this time we spent together. Going back to work will develop and recharge me; it's a good thing ... at least that's what my brain keeps repeating over and over and over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Stuff Your Box Party 2011

Thursday night, Andi and I hosted friends at our house for our "Stuff Your Box" holiday party. Some of our favorite people stopped by to toast to the holidays and swap Christmas cookies. In past years, I've invited a small group of girls to Andi's work kitchen to bake all of our cookies together. But this year, we decided to invite the boys too and add booze to the mix. It was so much fun!

During the party, I kept thinking to myself how lucky we are to be surrounded with so many great friends. I had a blast chatting with people I only see a few times a year and those I see three times a week. What's also fun is how so many different circles of friends mingle and get to know one another.


I am so thankful for Andi's mom and dad because without their help in babysitting Tory I wouldn't have been able to get dressed, let alone entertain 30 people at my house! Once Tory went to Grandma and Grandpa's house, I whipped up these yummy appetizers (buffalo chicken dip, meatballs, caprese and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese).

Our friends are amazing bakers! What beautiful treats everyone brought to share for our "stuff your box" cookie exchange. There were pretty green rosettes from Jenna, Swedish sugar cookies from Tom and Niki, caramels from Suzanne, Andes mint cookies from Danielle, reindeer sugar cookies from Jessie and so many more. But by far, the most popular cookie were the "bitch tits" from Jill (aka: gingerbread women with boobs). I not sure the mailman will appreciate those cookies in his Christmas tin from us. Or will he ....



I'd envisioned having adorable paper invitations with matching stickers on cookie tins and place cards next to every tray, but I couldn't pull it together this year. It was too much of an undertaking with Tory. I was feeling overwhelmed just making appetizers and decorating the house while wearing her in the baby sling. Despite not having all the fancy party touches, we still gave everyone a Christmas tin to take their cookies home in. Next year, I told Andi, we'll have to have a kids party and invite Santa to visit. He wasn't so stocked on that idea. Maybe he's too skinny to pull off a Santa suit anyway ...