Thursday, January 31, 2013

Family TIme

Now that Andi's latest event is done and he's back at home, life finally feels back to normal. I know other people's husbands travel for work or are deployed overseas and I'm not the only in the world to experience solo parenting but dang, it sucks. I don't realize how much I'm on auto-pilot when my husband's gone for days on end. I survive; I put one foot in front of the other. I do all diaper changes, all meal times, all clean-ups, all happy and sad and fun moments and phew, it is exhausting. Whenever Andi returns from time away and helps by cleaning up the kitchen or warming up Tory's milk before bedtime, I stop in my tracks and stammer a "th-th-thank you. Wow. Thank you for helping." It never dawns on me how go-go-go my life is when he's gone until he's back and suddenly I'm not doing everything on my own.

My mom said it best last week: I don't like to be alone. I never have. I didn't like to play alone as a kid, I didn't like being by myself in college and I still don't like being alone now. Sometimes Andi's job takes him away from home for days or weeks at a time and I don't like it, but it is what it is. And when he comes back home, it makes me feel like I'm on top of the world. Absence makes the heart grows fonder and I'm reminded just how much I love that man.

Now that my world's set right again, I have so much to look forward to in the coming months. No big work commitments on the horizon for Andi means we get to spend the next few weekends at the cabin enjoying family time together. Our Mexico trip is coming up quickly and I'm so looking forward to a few quiet days alone with my husband.

Monday night, Andi came home from work early and suggested we take Tory to open swim at a nearby community center. At first I was all, "eh, I don't know. It will cut dangerously close to her bedtime and whack with our evening bath/bedtime routine..." but then I realized Andi was coming home to spend quality time with his girls. Why am I always the no-fun, rule-following parent? Who cares about the routine!

We ate dinner together, then grabbed our swim suits and drove to open swim. Tory happily babbled in the backseat the entire way there. She, too, was in such a good mood and so happy to have her Daddy home. She insisted he carry her into the community center and didn't want to let him out of her sight. We paid $3.50 for an evening pass of swimming - cheap entertainment! The community center had a great zero-entry wading pool, perfect for Tory's size, and we had the entire kiddie pool to ourselves.

Wading into the water, all by herself

Neither Andi or I could believe just how much Tory has grown. She walked in and out of the pool all by herself (with one of us right next to her, of course) and "humpty dumptied" off the ledge into Andi's arms a million times. She "kicked-kicked-kicked" her legs and blew bubbles in the water and had the best time. Tory loves the water and remembered all her skills from swim class this spring. We had a great night hanging out as a family of three.

Climbing out of the pool all by herself

I love this one - she looks like a little supermodel

Ruffle butt - is there anything cuter?



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letters to Tory: 17 Months

Tory,

You're 17 months old now! That's drastically close to the half-way mark to two years old, in case you didn't realize. How in the world are you growing up so quickly? I ponder that question every single day as I watch you say a new word or bust out a new trick. Each month I think this is it, you can't possibly become more fun than you are right in this moment and then somehow YOU DO. You're are an absolute joy (most of the time, when you're not teething or whining, of course) and I can't imagine my life without you in it.



You're becoming quite the little character. Some of my favorite things about you lately are the way you blow on your food before you take a bite, every single time no matter if it's something warm or cold. Then you'll shake your head no as if saying, "it's not hot." You absolutely LOVE to dip your food. I have to hide the Ranch dressing, ketchup and sour cream because once you get a taste of your favorite dipping accompaniment, you won't eat any of the other food on your plate. It's kind of disgusting how you'll eat spoonfuls of sour cream, actually. Another cute thing you do lately is play peek-a-boo with your hands. You cover your eyes with your tiny little fingers, then move them and say "peek!" I have to laugh because you think while you're eyes are covered, no one else can see you. You like to hide in closets, showers and behind the toilet. Grandma Janie made you an apron with a bell attached so she can always find you because you're so good at disappearing these days. You also like when we chase you through the house by crawling on our hands and knees and as you run away, you can barely catch your breath you're laughing so hard. What a silly little girl you're growing into with so much personality.

Wearing Daddy's baseball cap around the house

Admiring yourself in the mirror


This month I've noticed your ability to listen to direction which is definitely something new for you. If I tell you to do something (ie: stay here while I open the oven door or wait on this rug while I take a quick shower), you will do just as I say. I'm not sure how long this listening thing will last (I'm guessing not long, ha!) but for now it's nice to communicate something to you and you actually follow through. I can also tell you to do something like pick out a plate for dinner or get your pink boots from the closet and you're able to do as directed. You like making your own choices when able, and it's definitely cut down on tantrum-throwing.

You're also very aware of things you're not suppose to be doing, like climbing on top of the kitchen table or standing on the toilet. Nana says you're just like Auntie Ashley when she was a little girl because you love climbing on anything. When we were at the cabin a few weeks ago, you climbed onto the toilet, then onto the bathroom countertop to get Daddy's toothbrush and chapstick. No object of desire is safely out of reach for you. I'm waiting for you to discover how to push the dining room chair up to the kitchen counter, but luckily you haven't figured that one out just yet.

Not listening to direction very well here, as you stand on the toilet

Climbing on the dining room table, with a firm grasp on Mommy's laptop

Talking on your cell phone - a favorite past time

You now say about 12 words, the latest ones being "here," "cheese" and "beep beep." You can identify lots of animals and objects by pointing to them in books and can even identify yourself when I ask "where's Tory?" We still use sign language quite a bit to communicate "more," "all done," and "milk." You have 13 teeth now, gaining your first canine tooth (lower right) just the other day. Brushing your teeth is one of your favorite activities. Your hair is growing so quickly now and just the other day, I put in your very first ponytail. It was on the top of your head, of course, because the front part of your hair isn't long enough to reach the back. You're actually sporting a bit of a mullet these days, but I'm not ready for your first haircut just yet.

First ponytail

Beep! Beep!
We both came down with a pretty nasty cold/flu virus over New Year's and it just so happened Daddy was traveling in California for work. It wasn't your best week as you battled cough and congestion, a bout of teething and a case of pinkeye. Luckily, the rest of January has been mostly sick-free and we were able to get outdoors and enjoy a few 30+ degree weather days.

Wearing your new amber teething necklace to combat the pain of one-year molars


Going for a winter walk around the neighborhood


You are still such a little mommy girl and love you baby dolls with all your heart. You don't go anywhere without one of them tucked underneath your arm. You received a baby doll stroller, high chair and car seat for Christmas and you play with them every single day. Your favorite animal is the monkey and say "ooh ooh ooh!" every time you see one.



You are the sweetest girl I know, Tory Bean, and I love you forever. Happy 17 months!

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Valentine's Crafts

We've been crafting up a storm for Valentine's Day. It's not even February yet and our walls are packed with red, white and pink decor. These little projects go a long way in occupying our afternoons when it's too cold to go outside. Every time I see Tory's handiwork displayed around the house, it makes me smile because it's something we enjoyed doing together. I know she likes it too as she walks over to her artwork many times a day, points to it and says "ooh!" Here's some of our projects so far:

Valentine's Water Colors


Water colors are a hit with Tory because she can paint using the paintbrush and not her hands. Any project that involves paint on her hands or feet is a big disaster because she screams bloody murder the minute it touches her. She loves dipping a paintbrush into a little cup of water though, and water is much easier to clean up for me so WIN.

I took a few pieces of white cardstock paper and drew hearts with a black Sharpie marker. Tory paints until her heart's content and then I lay the paper to dry on the countertop. Once it's dry, I cut out the hearts (or other shapes) and display her hard work proudly on the refrigerator.

Sticker Hearts

Tory's really into stickers right now, so I bought a few sheets in the  Dollar Spot section at Target. I cut a few hearts out of red and purple construction paper (who says all those scrapbooking supplies were a waste? I'm using the crap out of that stuff now!) and let Tory go to town. She picks which sticker she wants off the sheet, I peel it for her and she places it on the heart. Then I try reeeally hard not to re-stick it in a non-crooked way. It's her creation, after all.

Be Mine Banner

I bought this Be Mine Valentine's banner in the Dollar Spot section at Target, too. The packet came with 8 heart shapes, each one with a BE MINE letter or heart design, and string to hang it up. I gave Tory a red marker and heart-shaped stickers to decorate each one. This project was a great investment because it took us at least a week to finish decorated it. We colored/stickered one heart a day. You can't really tell the banner says Be Mine, but that's ok. We hung up this Valentine's banner in her play room. If you wanted to save yourself the dollar, you could easily make a DIY version at home with construction paper, stickers, string and a hole punch.

Heart Necklace

This project was mostly Mommy in the assembly, but Tory plays and plays with it now. I cut out 8 heart shapes of various colors and poked two holes into the center of each one. Then I threaded a piece of yarn through each hole and tied the two ends of yarn together to make a necklace. Voila! Heart-shaped necklace.

Valentine's Peanut Butter Blossoms
Alright, these aren't really a craft but Tory and I did make them together. I used this recipe for peanut butter blossom cookies and placed a heart-shaped Dove chocolate in the center of each one instead of the traditional Hershey's kiss. These are Andi's favorite cookie, so I thought it'd be a nice surprise when he returned home from his big work event.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Nothing tastes better to me than a bowl of piping hot tomato soup and grilled cheese. I've loved tomato soup ever since I was a kid, and I often order it in restaurants when it's available on the menu. One of my favorite "tomato soup" restaurants is Grisantas in Lincoln, Nebraska. Treat me to an afternoon of unlimited soup, salad and buttery garlic bread and I'll be yours forever. (My mouth is salivating as I think about it!)

Grisantas tomato soup is rich and creamy, with cheese tortellini noodles and chunks of diced tomato. I stumbled upon a similar recipe in a Taste of Home cooking magazine a few years ago and it's quickly become my go-to tomato soup recipe at home. The best part is, I usually have all the ingredients on hand so anytime I'm missing my Nebraska roots, I whip up a batch and serve myself a delicious lunch.

Tomato Tortellini Soup
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Ingredients:
1 pkg. Buitoni refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cans Campbell's condensed tomato soup, undiluted
2 cups vegetable broth (I often use chicken broth)
2 cups milk
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I'm not a huge fan of sun-dried tomatoes, so I often substitute 1 can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Meanwhile in a large pot, combine the tomato soup, broth, milk, cream, tomato (diced or sun-dried) and seasonings. Heat through. Drain tortellini and add to the soup pot. Stir in parmesan cheese. Sprinkle additional cheese on top as desired.

*I often halve the quantity of ingredients when I don't want 8-10 servings.


I made a batch of tomato tortellini soup for Tory and I today, and it was a big hit with both of us. I dished a few spoonfuls of not-too-hot tomato soup onto Tory's plate and encouraged her to "dip" her grilled cheese. Of course she's a big fan of dipping anything and gobbled her soup and sandwich right up. Although, who doesn't love the comfort of grilled cheese dripping with yummy tomato soup?

Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes about Nothing, Really

1. It occurred to me over lunch yesterday, I've eaten Mexican for nearly every meal in the last seven days. No joke. This happens to me every time Andi travels for an extended period of time. I make all my favorite meals, the ones I couldn't get away with serving days in a row if he were home. It just so happens those meals include crock pot chicken tortilla soup (which freezes well and makes awesome leftovers), this new crock pot enchilada soup recipe I tried, loved and ate for several meals afterwards, enchiladas which both Tory and I dig so I had to make them, a Chipotle burrito bowl I ate last Friday and a Qdoba taco salad I had on Sunday. One of those days, I just ate leftover queso dip as a meal. The inside of my body must look awesome right about now.

2. I feel most at peace when I'm a blog post ahead. There's a little fun fact about me. It's like a weight is lifted off my chest when I've got a pending post ready to be published. I hate how I feel when days slip by and I haven't written anything about our life, new things Tory's been up to or the latest topic rolling around in my brain. When there's one post waiting to be published, I feel free and new blog post ideas seem to roll out of my head and onto the keyboard. Today I'm one blog post ahead. Yes!

3. Andi and I leave for Mexico in a few weeks and normally I'd be worried about how I'll look in a bathing suit. But, this time? Not one bit. It's mostly because I'm down 10 pounds since leaving my job in November. I no longer have 35 food courts and coffee shops at my disposal, so I think that might have something to do with it. The other morning I made a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, then spent the next 30 minutes running around the kitchen like a crazy lady, making breakfast for Tory, starting laundry and unloading the dishwasher. I walked through the kitchen later and noticed my bowl of untouched, cold oatmeal sitting on the counter. That's probably the other reason I've lost weight. (Mom, if you're reading this: yes, I do eat). Anyway, not nervous at all for flaunting myself in a bikini on the beaches of Mexico. I haven't been this thin since Andi and I started dating in 2006 and I have to admit, it feels good to be back in my old body again.

4. Speaking of work, the other day I remembered the university where I was employed started their second semester of classes. It used to be the second busiest time of the year for me and now that date just passed me on the calendar like any other. I felt a huge whoosh of relief wash over me. I've been fairly indifferent about leaving my job until this realization, and now I'm just so thankful to be home with Tory everyday and doing something I love. Being a SAHM is work, but it's mostly physically exhausting for me. Mentally, my brain has never been more relaxed and unstressed. (On the days when Tory isn't teething or screaming at me 24/7, of course). Anyway, I feel blessed.

5. Andi's been staying in St. Paul since Saturday, prepping for his big work event happening this weekend. It's a little weird having him in town, but barely talking to him for eight days. I know he's super busy, so usually we don't chat much while he's working. Anyway, on Tuesday during my few hours of "mommy" time, I met Andi in St. Paul to say hey. We had a mid-day cocktail and I forced myself to talk about topics other than Tory. If I only had an hour of his time, I wanted it to be about us - not our little girl, not bills, not what needs fixing around the house - just us. Time to reconnect. It felt very scandalous meeting at his hotel room on a Tuesday afternoon. We might need to do that more often. Ha.

6. One thing I love about being a SAHM is the indifference between weekdays and weekends. The weekends when Andi worked used to be the loneliest times because everyone else already had plans with their families. Now, Tuesdays could just as easily be Saturdays. I kind of like it, actually. Sometimes being a SAHM feels like being on a really long vacation. A vacation without the relaxation or beach part, of course.

7. Does your UPS guy ring the doorbell? Mine does and it really has me fired up. This has been going on for some time now, so we posted a cute little plaque by our doorbell requesting people not ring the bell because the baby is sleeping. This doesn't stop the delivery drivers though, who feel the need to toss packages on our stoop, ring the doorbell and briskly walk away. They don't even wait for me to answer the door! We've even tried personally asking the drivers not to ring the doorbell, but it continues to happen anyway. Yesterday, I about lost it. Tory was 40 minutes into a nap she desperately needed. While she was sleeping, I busted through all my usual chores of cleaning up and laundry and was in the middle of prepping dinner when the doorbell rang. The dog went ballistic and Tory started crying. I was seething mad. I hadn't even got to the part of nap time where I get to sit down! If it hadn't been two degrees outside, I would've seriously run after the UPS truck to give that driver a piece of my mind. STOP RINGING THE DOORBELL! JUST DROP THE DANG PACKAGE AND LEAVE! I finally crawled up on the countertop and disabled our doorbell for good. I haven't figured out how I'll silence the dog yet, but a muzzle might be in order. What was in the package that was so darn important, you ask? A pair of work gloves for Andi. GRRRR. And, this is the story of why you'll have to call ahead when visiting my house because I won't be answering our non-functioning doorbell.

The End.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Bright, Sandy Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's been a draining few months around our house with Andi's busy work schedule, the holidays, etc. etc.. I barely remember what my husband looks like, and thanks to the whoop I barked through for three weeks in January, we've barely shared a kiss on the lips. Very Pretty Woman of us, I tell you.

But... BUT! There is an end in sight. In less than a month, my feet will be doing this on the sandy beaches of Mexico and my husband will be right beside me.

Oh, heck YES.


We are traveling to Ixtapa, Mexico in February for my 32nd birthday / Valentine's Day celebration, just the two of us. To say I'm excited is an understatement. I cannot wait to feel warm and see the sunshine!

Ixtapa's on the Pacific side of Mexico. I had to look it up on a map after several people asked me and I had no idea. Yes, we're going on another vacation where my lovely husband planned the entire trip. I'm just showing up with my swimming suit and a pina colada.


A crew of Andi's family including his parents, sister and cousin are babysitting Tory for us so we'll be able to enjoy five days/four nights alone together. We are very fortunate to have a good support system at home so we can travel away. Unlike trips of the past, we're planning to do absolutely nothing on this vacation. Well, except for lounging in our own infinity pool (!!!), drinking cocktails, eating yummy food, relaxing and reconnecting.


Counting the days, for sure. Mexico, here we come!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Places I've Been

Several months ago, I scoured the Internet looking for a scrapbook or journal to document all the places Tory has visited (or will visit in her lifetime). I wanted something similar to a baby book where I could write details about each trip, her first experiences, the date and her age at the time. I looked and looked, but couldn't find anything out there matching the vision in my head. I found scratchable travel maps like this one, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to document each state and its memories, not just checkmark as a place visited. So, I decided to create a kid's travel scrapbook myself. I called it "The Places I've Been" and I am absolutely in love with how it turned out!



Each page features one of the 52 states in the US, a 4x6 placeholder for a photo from the trip and places to journal under the categories: "Places I Visited", "My Favorite Memories" and "My First Time." So far, Tory's book has an entry under California, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin.


On the inside cover, I featured this quote by St. Augustine:

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

I hadn't traveling much until I met Andi and I think it's one the greatest blessings he's given me. The United States and the world are so vast, so diverse. It's made me a better person understanding how people in different cultures and upbringings experience life. I want Tory to have this same gift of travel in her lifetime and I hope she loves it just as much as her parents do.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Little Mommy Girl

Tory is quite the little mommy girl, always caring for her baby dolls by feeding them bottles, pushing them around in her doll stroller and giving them hugs and kisses. It melts my heart watching her dote on them so sweetly.

Today, she snagged one of my dish towels from the kitchen counter and wrapped one of her babies up, saying "brrr! brrr!" Apparently, all my bundling of Tory in this cold Minnesota weather has rubbed off on her and she wanted to care for her babies in the same way.

I couldn't help but watch her and smile. My little girl is growing up so big!

video

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Meal Planning

In January, I started meal planning to alleviate the pressure of meal time. Alright, it's not like throwing two pieces of bread together and calling it lunch is super stressful, but that's just the thing. I've found if I wait to the last minute to cook something, it's often food that's fast and unhealthy. My go-to clutch for Tory is Easy Mac or frozen waffles and while I'm a believer in everything's okay in moderation, I'd like her to have a little more balance in her diet. On top of it all, Tory is such a picky eater so I quickly run out of ideas for things to feed her. She likes carbs (bread, pasta), cheese (yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese) and some fruit (bananas, applesauce). If I don't plan ahead and come up with meals that sneak in some protein or veggies, I resort to feeding her exactly the things she likes because I know she's eat them.

Now that I'm home everyday, I've got 21 different meals to prepare in a week (not including Tory's snacks) and I found myself really dreading meal times because I was at a complete loss of what to serve. Enter weekly meal planning. In January, I started scouring my Pinterest boards, writing out meal plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, making a grocery list for any items I didn't have in the house and sticking to it. Sure, there are some days Andi works later than usual and I don't end up making the meal I'd intended because life happens. Specifically for breakfasts and lunches though, I've really fallen in love with my new system. There's nothing worse than scrambling around the kitchen in the morning, trying to whip up breakfast for Tory while I guzzle coffee down my throat and I'm still half-asleep. Referring to a meal plan takes all the angst out of meal time for me. I also feel like I have some structure in my new role as a stay-at-home-mom. Meal planning allows me to forecast what's next.


I mentioned using recipes I've found on Pinterest as my primary source for meal ideas and recipes. Mostly, everything I've seen and made was very good and I'd make again. Here's some of my favorites from the last two weeks:

Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal
Oatmeal, mixed with a tbsp of peanut butter and sliced banana
I really like oatmeal, and I've discovered Tory does too. I mix a scoop of peanut butter and banana slices into the oatmeal for more of a satisfying breakfast.

Turkey Roll-Ups
These were a pretty tasty and easy lunch meal. Tory ate the pieces of the wrap, cucumber slices and turkey separately and I ate it rolled together. I think you could make a few of these ahead of time and save in the refrigerator for the next day, too.

Would totally make this recipe again. Easy to make, had most of the ingredients on hand and Andi and I both loved it.

Crock-Pot Enchilada Soup
I really enjoyed this meal, and ate it as leftovers for several meals afterwards. Andi wasn't a big fan, I don't think, as he barely ate any. It was too spicy for Tory so I didn't give her any to try.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A No-Responsibility Cabin Weekend

Last weekend, Andi and I took his new business partner, Ravi and wife Nerissa, to our Wisconsin cabin for a no-kids, no-responsibility overnight getaway. Ravi lives near Atlanta but he and his wife are originally from Canada, so they're not complete strangers to cold weather or winter activity. (That said, it was 73 degrees in their hometown near Atlanta the weekend they visited here so the real question is, why weren't we visiting them?) Anyway, we planned to escape to the cabin for a quick trip before Andi and Ravi's big work event next weekend. A calm before the storm, if you will. I was mostly excited for 24 hours where I only had to be in charge of myself. Sleeping in and relaxation were top on my list.

Ravi and Nerissa met Andi and I at our house Saturday afternoon. We said good-bye to Tory and Andi's mom, who volunteered to watch Tory overnight for us, and hit the road for the cabin. It felt so strange driving without Tory to entertain in the backseat. We had adult conversations about traveling and food and our past lives during the car ride. I got to know Ravi and Nerissa a little better, as it was the first time I spent time with either of them. Nerissa traveled to Glamis, California with Ravi for Andi's work trip a few weeks ago, so the three of them shared lots of stories from their Christmas/New Year's work trip.

Stop at the bait store for minnows

Soon after we arrived at the cabin, we drove Andi's new Polaris Ranger over to the landlord's cabin for a cocktail. It was dark by this point and it felt so wild to load up into an ATV and drive across the frozen lake. No car seat needed. No wrangling a kiddo into a snow suit, hats and boots. No need to bring snacks or diapers. Life by the seat of our pants = a strange concept.

A walleye the boys pulled out of the lake just before 7pm

For dinner Saturday night, we took Ravi and Nerissa to Bistro 63, our new favorite restaurant near the cabin. Our friends shared the crazy story of how they ended up together and I learned that Ravi loves all the same foods I do (read: chain restaurants, cheese, and fried foods. YES.) We had a really great time together.

Sunday, we slept in until 8:00am (!!!), then the boys headed outdoors after breakfast to drill holes in the lake for ice fishing. Nerissa and I stayed inside and shared girl-talk, while I crocheted my very first scarf. It was so different than our normal weekends at the cabin; so unlike our typical life. At times, I was at a loss for what to devote my time to next. When I wasn't sure what to do, I cracked open a can of Diet Coke and put my feet up.

Keeping warm by the fire while the boys ice fish
We spent the rest of our time at the cabin ice fishing on the lake with the neighbors. It was a much-needed 24-hour getaway before the craziness of Andi's work event culminates this next week. As much as I enjoyed an adults-only dinner and standing outside in 8 degree weather, I really missed my little Tory Bean at the cabin. Though, it's nice to have a mix of both worlds sometimes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day In The Life: Winter 2013

This is my first Day In The Life chronicle as a stay-at-home-mom (point noted as it just occurred to me it's now January 2013. I mean, I knew it was but typing it out on the screen - whoa, where does the time go?)

After an unusually busy, under the weather, whiny toddler tantrum-throwing few weeks, things seem to be back to normal around here. I'm really enjoying being at home with Tory every day. We eat. We play. We change dirty diapers. REPEAT. Okay, there's more to our day than those three things. Here's a look at Thursday, January 17, 2013.

3:00am
Andi and I wake to the sound of Tory fussing from her crib on the other side of the very thin wall that separates our bedrooms. (Future note: if we ever build a house, we will NOT put the kid's rooms directly next to the master bedroom). Anyway, lord knows why we've been blessed with the child who refuses to sleep through the night, even at 16 months of age. I realize it's a small issue on the scale of many bigger things we could encounter but dang, a full night's sleep once and a while would be nice. Usually we leave Tory alone to settle herself back to sleep, so I close my eyes and wait for the fussing to stop. Unfortunately my husband, who has been working long hours for an event he's producing in St. Paul next weekend, desperately needs some uninterrupted sleep. I feel guilty for letting her cry and keeping him from getting the rest he needs, so I contemplate whether or not to go in there and hold her in the rocking chair or let her fall back to sleep in her bed. Luckily, Tory makes the decision for me and goes back to sleep. Phew.

5:00am
Andi wakes me up, kisses me good-bye and leaves for work.

6:00am
I wake up and check the baby monitor to see Tory is still fast asleep. I'm a bit shocked she's "slept in" this late when she's usually up between 5:30am - 5:45am. Oh well! I reach over and grab my iPhone from the nightstand and check Facebook, Instagram and read a few blogs from my phone. Then comes the mental game of back and forth I play with myself: do I get up and risk stirring Tory or should I lay in bed, making no noise and hoping she sleeps a few minutes longer? I decide to get up.

6:30am
Yesterday I made some of these make-ahead breakfast parfaits for Andi and I, so I bust one out of the fridge and give it a taste. I made the breakfast parfaits with Fage Greek 0% fat yogurt, frozen mixed berries and old-fashioned oats. The breakfast parfaits are just okay for me ... not a ton of flavor and I don't care for the mushy oats inside. I like the concept though, so I think I'll experiment with other ingredients and give them a go another time. Maybe more blended (smoothie like?) with a drizzle of honey on top. Now we're talking ...

Between bites, I watch the five-day weather forecast on the news and see the Twin Cities are in for a -1 degree high on Monday. Ugh. I also consult my notebook of this week's recipes and see eggs and toast are on the docket for Tory's breakfast.

Photo 1: Make-ahead breakfast parfait
Photo 2: Five day weather forecast for January 17-21, 2013
Photo 3: This week's menu plan

7:00am
Holy bananas, Tory's still asleep. Anytime she wakes up multiple times in the night, Tory tends to sleep a bit later in the morning (she woke up at 10:00pm, Midnight and 3:00am last night). I think teething's to blame but honestly, I don't know with her. I've ruled out every other possibility so teething has to be it. I decide to throw in a load of laundry and wrap a baby gift for one of our friends in the meantime.

7:15am
I hear Tory fussing in the other room, so I pick her up from her crib and change her 20 lb. overnight diaper. The smell of urine gags me. Diaper changes become more disgusting the older kids get. Yuck! Tory is particularly moody in the mornings and today's no different. I give her a few snuggles and try to shoo away her grumbles.

7:30am
Holding Tory on my hip, I gather two eggs and butter from the fridge, and bread from the cupboard to make her breakfast. I decide to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to hollow out the center of the bread and pour the scrambled egg mixture into the hole like the idea here. The heart shape turned out okay (you couldn't really tell it was a heart) but Tory scarfed down the eggs and toast. Eggs are hit or miss with her, so I loved this technique simply for the fact that she ate the entire meal. The syrup I drizzled over her toast and eggs could've had something to do with, too. Tory Bean will eat anything with syrup, Ranch dressing or ketchup to dip it in.

Thirsty girl

7:45am
I clean up breakfast while Tory plays toys on the kitchen floor. I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cut up grapes for our today's lunch at the Children's Museum. I realize how easy this food stage is with Tory right now. Throwing some sandwiches and fruit in a Ziploc bag is so easy compared to past days of traveling with pureed baby food containers and all the mess.

8:30am
I get Tory dressed, brush her teeth and comb her hair. She's very interested in brushing her teeth lately, so this is one of our day's highlights. I also get dressed, brush my hair and throw on some make-up. Tory climbs around on my bathroom toilet while I get ready. Our bathrooms are likely the cleanest they've ever been these days because there's always a little monkey crawling on the toilets.

Photo 1: Tory's closet
Photo 2: Brushing Tory's teeth
Photo 3: Tory the Monkey climbing on the toilet

8:45am
I start the truck to warm it up and load up my purse and our lunch bag. Meanwhile, Tory speeds around the living room carrying a big container of animal crackers. I ask her to get her purple sparkly shoes from the closet, she finds them and brings them to me. We get dressed in socks, shoes, hats and coats and then I buckle into the car seat.

9:30am
Tory and I arrive at the Minnesota Children's Museum for a play date with my girlfriend Val and her kiddos Kasen and Linden. It's our first time to the museum so I ended up circling the block a few times before I figured out exactly where to park. Have I mentioned how much I hate driving in downtown areas? Tory and I make our way through the St. Paul skyways to the museum. It's cold today and starting to snow, so I'm thankful for the walk indoors. Tory and I stop in the skyway and watch the cars driving below us for a few minutes before arriving at the museum.

Photo 1: Reminder of where we parked
Photo 2: Checking out the cars passing in the skyway

10:00am
Val, Kasen and Linden arrive at the museum. We pay for our admission and spend the next fifteen minutes unloading our coats and bags in the coat room and making trips to the bathroom for diaper changes.

10:15am
Play time at the museum! As I said, Tory and I have never been to the museum before so we had fun exploring the various play areas. We start in the "Habitat" room which is limited to kids two years and younger. Tory acts cautious, but excited to discover all the areas. She walks around on the ramps and stairs for a while and accidentally pushes one little boy over as she tried to hug him. Oops! My little Tory Bean loves to hug and sometimes other kids aren't ready for it. We apologize to his mommy and we're on to the next activity.

Next, we played in the "Our World" room which has various areas of real-life play. There's a grocery store, a house, a metro bus, a post office and doctor's office to explore. Tory liked climbing on the chairs and tables in this room and wearing all the dress-up clothes. This area was fairly packed with older kids, so it was a little challenging to let her explore and play on her own without getting knocked over. I'm excited to come to visit again on a day when there's not so many tour groups.

Photo 1: Mail lady
Photo 2: Playing in the Children's Museum
Museum friends
Tory (1 year), Kasen (2 years) and Linden (9 months)

11:30am
It's nearing lunchtime, so Val and I takef the kids downstairs to the eating area for lunch. Tory and I ate our sandwiches and fruit quickly and then we said good-bye to Val so we could head home before nap time.

11:45am
On the drive home, I bust out our new Music Together CD and sing songs with Tory to keep her from falling asleep in the car. Her favorite song is Five In The Bed and it melts my heart the way she tries to hold up her fingers as we count down to one.

12:30pm
By the time we arrive home, Tory is nearing a meltdown. As I'm putting away our coats and shoes, she begins to throw herself on the kitchen floor and cry, so I quickly warm up some milk and take her into her room to rock-a-bye before a nap. Before I lay her down, I change her diaper and clothes to rid of any kiddo germs we picked up at our morning outing.

1:20pm 
Tory's asleep, so I tip-toe downstairs to throw in another load of laundry. While I'm in the laundry room, I hear Tory cry from her bedroom. Rats! Normally I'd leave her in there to settle back to sleep, but she's crying fairly hard so something must be wrong. I check on Tory to discover she's pooped her pants. DANG. The dreaded Poop Nap Ruiner.

1:30pm
I change Tory's pants and now she's wide awake. I attempt to lay her back down again, but she wants nothing to do with the idea. After battling her for several minutes, I take her into our bedroom and curl up on the bed to watch some PBS until she calms down.

2:00pm
I get Tory some more milk and try to lay her down for a nap again. No dice.

2:30pm
Fine then, no nap it is. A 20 minute break for mama - of which I spent the entire time doing laundry - is cool, right? GAH. I get Tory a snack of string cheese, orange slices and yogurt melts. She eats them quietly in her highchair while I wash some bottles. At least if she's awake, she isn't crabbing at me so I'll allow nap time to be over.

3:00pm
I break out the sensory noodle tub for play time. Tory quietly sits on the kitchen floor and scoops up the dry noodles into cups and dumps them out again. I stand there in amazement because for the first time ever I see her actually interacting with the sensory tub like a grown up girl. Usually she wants to dump the entire Tupperware container out or loses interest in the activity quickly, but today she GETS IT. I'm so proud of her!

Next, I break out a Valentine's Day banner I bought in the Target Dollar Spot section. I give Tory some foam stickers and a red marker to decorate the banner. She has just discovered the fabulous world of stickers and has a ball sticking each one onto the hearts. This keeps her busy for a good 15 minutes.

On to the next activity! We clean up our mess in the kitchen, then move to the play room for more toys and reading books. While she plays, I put away some laundry in the bedrooms.

Photo 1: Sensory tub time
Photo 2: Playing barn animals
Photo 3: Making a Valentine's Day craft

4:45pm
It's nearing dinner time, so I throw a made-ahead hamburger macaroni casserole in the oven. I'm planning to make Sweet and Sour Chicken for Andi and I to eat later tonight.

5:00pm
Dinner time for Tory. She picks out a plate and sippy cup while I pull dinner from the oven. Recently, I moved Tory's plates, bowls and cups to a lower cabinet so she can access them on her own and she's loving the responsibility of choosing her own meal accessories. I think it develops independence and her own participation in meal time. I'm also hoping it gives her more freedom to make her own choices resulting in less tantrums when something isn't exactly the way she wants it. So far, so good.

As I'm dishing up Tory's meal, Andi calls and says he'll be working even later than expected. Don't wait to eat dinner, he says. I serve myself a helping of Tory's macaroni casserole and a glass of wine. Not the fanciest dinner, but it'll do. No need to make an entire dinner for myself to eat solo.

Photo 1: Picking out a plate and cup from the cabinet
Photo 2: Tory eating dinner of macaroni, cottage cheese and oranges
Photo 3: My dinner of macaroni, wine and water (seems balanced, right?)

5:30pm
I clean up dinner while Tory plays toys in the kitchen. Next, we walk to Tory's bedroom and pick out pajamas for bedtime. I let Tory pick out her own pajamas (another toddler freedom / responsibility I'm giving her lately) and she selects her blue and pink elephant pjs.

6:00pm
Bath time. Tory loves to take a bath and I'm running out of steam at this point, so I let her play and splash until her heart's content. Specifically, we sing Humpty Dumpty (as we push her toys off the bathtub edge), blow bubbles and pretend to take drinks of the water. When I wash Tory's head, I'm amazed how much her hair has grown in the last month. When it's wet, Tory's hair almost reaches to her shoulder blades. While I towel her off after bathtime, she brushes her teeth.

Photo 1: Soap head
Photo 2: Tory's long hair

6:30pm
It's Tory's bedtime and almost mama's relaxation time. I warm up some milk and rock Tory to sleep in her nursery. She is overly tired from not sleeping much today and tries to wiggle out of my arms while I'm holding her in the rocking chair. Finally, I stand up and cradle my screaming toddler in my arms like a newborn baby until she gives up the fight, closes her eyes and falls asleep. Sometimes it's the only way to calm her. Why with the sleep fighting?

7:15pm
Once Tory's asleep, I do one last sweep of toy pickup in the kitchen and living room, then hit the lights and crawl into bed. I'm ready for a little mama down time after a busy day. I buy another episode of Revenge on iTunes (my latest guilty pleasure) and veg out for a while.

7:30pm
Someone knocks at the door and a quick glance out the window reveals its a door-to-door salesperson for CenturyLink. For reals? At this hour? Rude. I shush the dog, freeze in place and pray Tory doesn't wake up. The salesperson leaves after a few minutes.

8:00pm
Andi calls and says he's just left work.

8:30pm
Andi's home so we catch up on each other's day. He's exhausted and turns in after a few minutes of chatting, while I read my Kindle in bed (half way through Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner).

9:00pm
Lights out. Andi is fast asleep and I'm headed there soon. We're lame and we don't care. Good-night!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Change is Never Easy

I've been testing the one-nap waters for over a week now, and I can officially say there's no turning back for us. I don't know if I'm incredibly dramatic (possible, very possible) or if other mothers are just better adapters than I am, but this has been one of the trickiest transitions thus far. Maybe it's because Tory has never been the greatest sleeper and it took us an incredibly long time to find a consistent two-nap pattern that seemed to work for her. Once we found that groove (two naps a day from 8:30am - 10:30am and 1:30pm - 2:30pm), it worked liked magic. I'm hoping the same will be the case this time around. Stick to it. Stick to it. Stick to it. (My mental mantra, over and over again).

It's only been 10 days or so, but so far the one nap thing has been a bit stressful. Typically, Tory wakes up in the morning between 5:30am-5:45am, so the next SIX HOURS are full of me keeping her busy with planned activities and lots of distraction to avoid mid-morning meltdowns. The 8:30am-9:30am hour seems to be the worst because she's used to going down for a nap around then. The first few days on this new schedule, I tried to get her out of the house (running errands, grocery shopping, etc.), but she immediately fell asleep in the car. I finally realized a little downtime is okay (and probably much needed) without physical sleep. Over the last few days, I've been using this hour to read books on the couch or snuggle up and watch an episode of Curious George with her. This seems to provide enough recharge to power through the morning.

A solid six hours in the morning means my days need to be planned, or I'm scrambling to pass the time and the days feel incredibly long. In December, I had an advent calendar activity planned for each day and it gave me something fun to look forward to doing together. Along the same idea, I jotted down something fun and interactive for us to do every day in January. Next week for example ...

Monday - visit Mall of America aquarium
Tuesday - story time at the library
Wednesday - make Valentine's Day cards for the grandparents
Thursday - Lil' Explorers event at the zoo
Friday - music class
Saturday - make a Valentine's lei
Sunday - play date with friends

I'm hoping Tory adapts to the new schedule soon and hopefully takes a nice, long afternoon nap once she realizes she's only getting one nap a day. It hasn't happened so far. Yesterday she slept for 40 minutes in the afternoon. I let her fuss for a while thinking (praying!) she'd fall back asleep but she never did. It doesn't leave much recharge time for Mama when the better part of my alone time features a toddler crying for me in the next room.

There really is no turning back, though. She is a toddler now, and toddlers take one-nap a day. It's the way it has to be eventually and I know once we're adjusted it'll make things much nicer to do something fun together in the mornings. We just have to ... GET THERE.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Things I Love: Toddler 12-15 Months Edition

Tory turned 16 months old recently which means we've hit another milestone point in chronicling the stuff that made our lives easier the last few months. If feels like watching paint dry when I'm typing these things up, but more than once I've gone back to these posts to see what baby items were our favorite. I'm glad I take the time to jot them down. With Tory, it seems every three months she hits a big developmental leap and we're onto the next stage. New likes. New hurdles. New interests. Here's some of our favorites during 12-15 months of age:

Items we continued to loved:
Tommee Tippee Bibs
Aden + Anais Sleep Sack

-Useful -
Snack Cup
I've mentioned it many times before, Tory is a bit of a picky eater. Her delicate palate even extends into the snack category. (She's never liked Gerber Puffs or Cheerio's cereal and her interest in Gerber Lil' Crunchies was short-lived). Normally, I wouldn't be so intent on peaking her interest in munching, but at times when she's melting down in Target or flying on an airplane, snacks provide a great distraction.

Enter these toddler snack cups (well, and animal crackers inside of them). No surprise, Tory loves the ability to control the flow of her own snack dispersal. She stays busy with the cup for several minutes, removing the crackers from the webbed top, and it's usually enough of a distraction for me to wrap up a shopping trip and avoid a major meltdown.

Dr. Brown's Plates
We're finally at a stage where Tory can be trusted with a plate. These are my favorite because they're on the smaller size and fit perfectly in Tory's highchair tray. The equally portioned sections help her see the difference between foods and remind me to balance out her meal with fruits, dairy and vegetables.

Anti Monkey Butt for Diaper Rash
Over the last three months, Tory gained three of her four one-year molars and they didn't come easy. We battled many unpretty bouts of diaper rash and many times, regular diaper creme didn't cut it. Andi picked up this powder one day and it works wonders when alternated between Butt Paste creme. Basically this is corn starch powder like the home remedy my mom recommended in an easy shakable/storable container.

Robeez Shoes

During the age of 12-15 months, Tory was really learning to move. It was over this stretch she went from toddling along to full-on running. Robeez shoes were an excellent first shoe because they held up to wear and tear (compared to other "first" shoes she had from Old Navy) and they were easy for her to walk in (shoes with a big sole were clunky and harder for her to maneuver).

------

-Favorite Toys/Gifts -
Some of Tory's favorite toys this age were a little more "creative." A playroom full of colorful, noisy toys and everyday this kiddo played with the following items:

Plastic Eggs
I took an old egg carton and painted the insides of each egg nest? egg hole? (whatever the heck you call it) a different color. Then, I put matching colored plastic Easter egg in each spot. Seriously, this was Tory's favorite (favorite, favorite, favorite) toy for months. She dumped the eggs out. Put them back in (not necessarily in the correct color spot, although that was the intention) and dumped them out again. Sometimes she loaded the eggs into a bag and waved "bye-bye" as she walked away. Leaving the grocery store perhaps? Aside from my kitchen floor being littered with plastic eggs all the time, it was the best toy ever.


Baby Photos
Another handmade favorite? Old photos. For Tory's birthday, I'd cut some pictures into circles for a craft project I was making. I didn't end up using the photos, so I gave them to Tory to play with. Every day, Tory lined up the photos on the ground and pointed to all the babies (herself, ha!). She put the photos in a bucket, emptied them out and put them in the bucket again.


Learning Home
Tory's favorite toy this stage was the Fisher Price Learning Home. She played with this house every single day and with its many gadgets, lights and sounds there was plenty to occupy her.


Push Toys
Anything pushable like the Corn Popper toy and Activity Walker were big hits. Tory played with the activity walker more once she knew how to walk than she did when she was learning. One day I tied her baby doll to the front of the walker like a make-shift stroller and she lost her marbles in a full-on meltdown. Apparently this type of creative play was a little out of her realm. Oops.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My New Favorite Kitchen Accessory

Tory is a bit of a picky eater and sometimes, I struggle with new food ideas to feed her. I'm always on the hunt for nutritious items that are quick to prepare and soft/easy enough for her to chew. Muffins fall into this category often because it's an easy way for me to sneak fruits and vegetables in her tummy without her realizing it. It just so happens my husband also fancies foods in individualized portion sizes (meatloaves, broccoli cheddar cups, etc.) so let's just say my muffin pans get good use.



I've purchased reusable baking cups a few times as gifts because they're so dang cute. Paired with a box of cupcake mix and voila! Adorable. I've always wondered if they worked and I'm here to tell you they do. I received a set for Christmas and I'm in love.

Yesterday, Tory and I made these banana chocolate chip muffins using the baking cups. She was a big fan of the recipe. I like making banana bread muffins vs. a loaf because it's more bite size and easier to serve in the early morning hours when I'm struggling to guzzle coffee and dish up breakfast at the same time. Plus, muffins are easier to freeze so we're not eating the same ol' thing multiple mornings in an row. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe says yields 12 muffins, but they made 16 for me

Ingredients:
3 medium very ripe bananas (I used 4 because mine were on the smaller side)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. chocolate chips (I used white chocolate because that's what I had on hand)

Directions:
Preheat over to 350 degrees. 
No need to coat the silicone baking cups with any cooking spray. The muffins won't stick!
Mash bananas with a fork in a large bowl. (Tory especially liked this job. Then she started eating the bananas by the fistful and well, it's a good things it's just us consuming them).
Whisk in egg, milk, sugar and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. (Now wipe down your flour-covered toddler. Oh wait, that might just be in my case).
Add flour mixture to banana mixture and combine well. 
Fold in chocolate chips. (Be aware of toddlers who try to steal them).
Spoon equal amounts of batter into muffin cups.
Bake 30 minutes.

My favorite features about the cups are they're reusable, they don't stick to whatever you've made inside of them (literally, it just pops out) and they cool almost instantly. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Sleep Strike is Over!

Amidst the very looong few weeks we've been trudging through around here with bouts of the flu, teething and toddler sleep refusal, I decided to cut Tory back to one nap a day. I might be crazy, yes it's true. My decision mostly derived from sheer exhaustion and dread in the fight of another 90 minute battle with Miss No Nap. I just didn't have it in me. Plus, most toddlers her age who attend day care have moved onto a one-nap schedule, so I thought maybe she was ready to do the same. Maybe I was trying to over-sleep her and that's why she was fighting me so hard.

We've been at the one-nap thing for four days now, and I'm not convinced it's the right move for us. For one, I've really fallen in love with the idea of having an hour in the morning to myself to shower, blog, throw in a load of laundry, clean, whatever. Before the holidays, we had a nice little system in place of wake-up, breakfast, playtime, poop (for Tory, in case there was any confusion about that), milk and a morning nap. I didn't even care we were confined to the house until mid-day because I was able to cross a few things off my day's to-do list and have a little "me time" to boot. Secondly, Tory is an early riser (usually stirring at 5:00am and up for good between 5:30am - 5:45am) so by the time 9:00am rolls around, she needs a little down time. Her morning nap is usually her solid sleep of the day, sometimes 1-2 hours, and it's the second afternoon nap she seems to need less.

I realize four days isn't long enough in the parenting world to test if any theory works. I should give this one-nap thing at least a week or two to see if it's really the path we're on. I've tried to busy Tory and I every morning with trips to grandma's house, Target or the gym so the day doesn't feel so long for us. Except, every time I put her in the car to go somewhere she falls asleep. Staying at home for six hours in the morning isn't my favorite choice as the constant whining, pant-leg pulling and shouts of "up! up!" can be a little overwhelming without a mental break somewhere. If it's not a morning nap for Tory, then Target or Storytime at the library will have to do.

Things seems to be getting back to normal around here. Tory's fourth one-year molar popped through her gums and she seems in less discomfort overall. I'm feeling about 90% better after the worst flu-turned-cold cough and congestion crap I've experienced in quite some time. After the holiday hoopla and being at home for two weeks now, Tory seems less insistent on being held during every waking hour and more interested in occupying herself with toys, etc. Back to routine feels good.

This morning, around the time of her old morning nap, Tory looked a little sleepy. I warmed up some milk and decided to rock her for a few minutes in her bedroom. She seemed drowsy and calm, so I laid her down in her crib, said night-night and walked away. Not a peep from her. NOT A PEEP!!! It was like the old days, a simple morning nap! No wrestling! No frustration! Hallelujah!

The benefit of being home with Tory every day is we can set our own schedule. Just because all the other toddlers her age are ditching morning naps doesn't mean we have to, right? Things seems to be back on track around here for both of us. I'm so, so glad. I'm going to relax and enjoy this moment we're in, instead of stressing over morning activities and one-nap schedules. And, breathe ... ahhh.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peaceful Getaway

My poor husband has been working like crazy and his one day off this weekend, we decided to escape reality and head to the cabin. We were both on the fence if making the drive for less than 24 hours was worth it but then again, when have we ever gone there and wished we hadn't? NEVER. I'm so glad we took the opportunity to get away for some time together. Andi really needed the mental break, and I needed the quality time with my two favorite people.

Friday night, we stopped by the cabin to crank up the heat and then headed down the lake to our landlords' cabin for a beer. I had to laugh when we pulled up and Andi hopped out of the truck to run inside the cabin. It was dark and quiet in the car for a second or two before Tory worriedly said, "Mom?" Poor thing thought she was left alone in the dark car! "I'm here!" I said. It wasn't funny, but it was. I just get a kick out of her turning into a little person, communicating with us and all. Andi and I giggled about it all night long.  

Saturday morning, we lounged around the cabin, played toys and re-directed Tory from climbing on the  kitchen table about a hundred times. Andi bought some tip-ups to ice fish on the lake outside our cabin. It's a pretty good system - he drilled holes in the ice, set up these fishing "tip-ups" and then watched for the flag to raise from inside the cabin warmth. Unfortunately, he never caught anything because he needed to be deeper in the lake. Next time ....

The weather was fairly balmy for this area in January at 25 degrees, so we decided to take Tory for a sled ride. Andi got this new infant toboggan for Christmas and it worked perfectly for Tory's size. She loved it so much she even fell asleep! (That's what holding her off to one nap a day will do).

 
We headed over to the landlord / neighbor's cabin again to pick up Tory's Christmas present. On the way there, Andi decided we should walk on the frozen lake. It was snow-covered so it didn't really feel like we were on the ice, but I felt pretty proud of myself for walking on a frozen body of water without any complaining. You wouldn't have got me out there for anything a few years ago! I'm coming quite a way in being converted to a Minnesotan. On the way back to our cabin, we walked through the wooded trails.


Tory never made a peep during our entire walk. She had such a fun time on the sled ride.

Unfortunately, we had to pack it up and head home Saturday evening. Even for one day, the cabin proves to be our very favorite place on Earth.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rough Patch

The last two weeks have been a ... challenging time with Tory. I think it's a combination of traveling to Nebraska for seven days around Christmas, being sick with the flu over New Year's, catching pinkeye, cutting her fourth one-year molar and possibly sleep regression (as if that weren't enough!) that have her acting completely unlike herself. On top of it all, I'm still not feeling 100% after being sick this week and it has my patience on thin ice.

The biggest issue is Tory's refusal to sleep. Every nap and bedtime is a 60-90 minute power struggle between the two of us. It's been this way since mid-December. Different than other sleep refusal episodes, she's bigger now and able to fight her way out of my arms or scream at the top of her lungs for much longer periods. I'm not against letting her cry it out, but I'm not comfortable doing so if she's not feeling well from teething or sickness. The result is a fussy toddler who whines and tugs at the pant legs of a worn-out mama 24/7. I am simply burnt out.

Andi asked me the other night if I'm regretting my decision to stay at home with Tory and my answer was absolutely not. We're just having a rough couple of weeks over here and unfortunately as a stay-at-home-mom in our current situation (read: Andi working ... all the time), there's never a break from parenting. Never someone else to tackle a dreaded bedtime routine. Never more than a few minutes to myself for anything. It's hard to recharge when that's the case.

I mentioned in Tory's 16 month letter how she's been experiencing some separation anxiety as well. It's no secret, she's always been a mama's girl but lately Tory won't let me out of her sight. She constantly wants to be held and will rarely let anyone else do anything for her. Andi's mom seems to be the only one Tory will go other than me, and I'm thankful for all her help while I was sick last weekend.

The last few weeks have caused me to put some plans in motion for 2013. I love staying at home with Tory, I really do, but I also know I need to carve out some time for myself. I hired Andi's cousin to babysit Tory for a few hours every week to give me so alone time to go to appointments, run errands, etc. I'm also joining a gym this week with childcare available. It's not secret I loathe exercise, but I wouldn't mind taking some yoga classes and having a place of escape where I can clear my mind. The childcare area will be a good place for Tory to socialize with other kids, too.

Lastly, I'm reminding myself daily (many, many times) how quickly things change with kids. This is a stage in Tory's development and it'll pass. Soon, she'll eventually be sleeping again without a fight and we'll be back to a regular schedule. I've decided to drop her to one nap a day which I think is a needed adjustment. Part of her refusal to nap may be because I'm pushing sleep when she's really not that tired. We'll see how the transition goes. In the process, I'm booking our morning calendar full of activities to run her little legs and give us a change in scenery from the confines of her playroom.

If all else fails, And and I are taking a vacation in February for my birthday so relief in one form or another is in sight. Not that I'm counting days or anything ....

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012

Happy 2013! It's a new year and therefore, I'm completing this year-end survey again. This time though, I completed it with Andi and added some of his answers for a fun twist. (Here's 20092010 and 2011):

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

Weaned my child from nursing. Made my own baby food. Drove an ATV. Celebrated my first Mother's Day. Cut cable. Andi held his first bike race.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My 2012 resolution: host a dinner for friends once a month in an effort to stay better connected with people we love. Unfortunately, this goal of mine didn't last long. It proved to be very challenging to get other people to commit to a day on the calendar to get together. However, Andi and I did meet up with a few couple friends throughout the year for dinners out and those nights were always a highlight for me. Together, Andi and I also went on several date night dinners, just the two of us, which I loved every minute.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My good friend Melissa had a baby girl, Vivian, in May. My sister had her baby girl, Neeley, in August and my best friend Ashley gave birth to a baby boy, Easton, in November. Several of Andi's friends also had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, unfortunately. Andi's grandma passed away in December. My dad's aunt also passed away.

5. What countries did you visit?

I didn't travel out of the country in 2012 (sad!), but I visited these new cities in the United States: Austin, TX, New Orleans and Vail, Colorado. Andi traveled to Canada a few times for work and once for a fishing mancation with his friend, Charlie.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you didn't have in 2012?

A child who sleeps through the night. A tailgate party with my favorite dips and chips, of course. Andi hopes for more weekends at the cabin.

7. What dates from 2012 will be etched upon your memory, and why?
August 30 - Tory's first birthday
November 21 - first day as a stay-at-home-mom

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Andi and I both agree - being a parent is our biggest accomplishment. We're raising a smart, witty, strong-minded little girl and it's amazing watching her become her own person based on the skills I'm teaching her.

9. What's your biggest failure?
Saying things on my blog and Twitter to get them off my chest, when they likely hurt other people's feelings. I did this to Andi a few times because I was caught up in emotion and I felt terribly about it afterward.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, thankfully. Just a few colds and bouts of flu.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We rented our cabin for an entire year, and that's worth noting. Biggest purchase - our pontoon boat.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My husband's - he worked so hard in 2012 to build a successful company. It's pretty remarkable all he's accomplished this year. We also celebrated lots of Tory's firsts - sitting up solo, crawling and walking.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I was fairly annoyed by all the political talk on social media around the election. I'm all for voicing your opinion by voting at the polls, but does everyone really to see your opinion splashed all over the Internet a gazillion times? I think not.

14. Where did most of your money go?
I don't know, I'd have to ask my husband - ha! Okay really, our mortgages, the cabin, cars, trips to Nebraska, child care, diapers, diapers, diapers ... 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My family's visit to Minnesota in late August. My parents usually visit once a year, and never before have my sister, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins all visited at the same time. 

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2012?
Pontoon by Little Big Town

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: 
a) happier or sadder? I'm pretty damn happy.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner. Definitely had some baby weight to lose last year at this time.
c) richer or poorer?
 Richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Gone to the lake cabin more often. Working those stupid Gopher football games this fall really cramped our cabin style toward the end of the season.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

I wish I would have done less worrying about the breastfeeding thing. In the end, formula wasn't the devil and I don't know why I beat myself up so hard about having a low milk supply. Everything worked out in the end.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Andi, Tory and I hosted Andi's parents and sister at our house for Christmas. We opened presents, ate great food and enjoyed each other's company before Andi, unfortunately, had to leave town for an event in the California desert. 

21. Did you fall in love with 2012?
I fell in love with coffee in a major way. Like, I need it every single day.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Sadly, I watched far less TV in 2012 than I would have liked. Darn parenting really gets in the way of things. I guess I'd say How I Met Your Mother - my tried and true favorite. Or Friday Night Lights. We definitely wasted many, many hours of our lives watching that show on Netflix.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
What a dumb question. I don't hate anyone.

24. What was the best book you read?

Hunger Games - I loved those books.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The harmonica? I don't know. I'm the worst at music. I mostly listen to talk radio.

26. What did you want and get?
Andi wanted all the latest and greatest Apple products and got them the second they were released. I wanted an iPhone, too, and finally got one. 

27. What did you want and not get?

Andi said he wanted this can cooker. Ha. I wish I would have had more sleep.

28. What was your favorite film of 2012?
Hunger Games. I think that might have been the one and only movie we saw at the theatre the entire year.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31 this year and celebrated at home with dinner and drinks in downtown Minneapolis. 

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I wish I would had taken a big vacation. Andi would have liked Tory to sleep through the night.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2012?
Casual and comfortable.

32. What kept you sane?
The cabin. And earplugs, Andi said.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
I wasn't stirred by any political issue.

34. Who did you miss?

I missed my Nebraska family and friends.

35. Who was the best new person you met?
I met so many great friends in 2012 - many online blogger turned real-life friends and some mom friends met through Tory's activities.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Tomorrow's always a new day as a parent. I reminded myself of this every single day in 2012. Eventually Tory will sleep through the night. Eventually, eventually, eventually ... at the beginning of 2013, we're almost there, I think.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

We've got the whole wide world in our yard to explore.
We always find things we've never seen before.
That's why every day we're back for more
with your friends, the Backyardigans.

Andi and I listened to The Backyardigans theme song on repeat waaay too many times on the drive to and from the cabin this year. Our Tory Bean is hypnotized by that show. I'll never forget the theme song as long as I live.