Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baking Pumpkin Muffins, Just Me and My Girl

Sometimes when my house needs cleaning, I say screw it to mopping the floor and yes to making a mess in the kitchen with Tory. Baking muffins is one of our favorite things to do together. She loves to wear her pint-sized cupcake apron and demands I sport my apron as well (although it doesn't fit as nicely around my very pregnant belly these days). I let her scoop and mix ingredients in a bowl and I take a gazillion pictures of her licking the mixing paddle because she's so gosh-darn cute.

Yesterday, we made a pumpkin muffin recipe from our fall bucket list. This probably isn't the healthiest muffin recipe out there, but it tastes delicious. It's okay to treat ourselves every once and a while, right?

Good thing I skipped cleaning my kitchen beforehand because girlfriend made a mess. She was covered head to toe in flour and orange pumpkin batter by the end. During our morning in the kitchen, I also discovered Tory loves raisins. Not sure why I've never thought to give them to her before, but she gobbled raisins up as fast as I could measure for the recipe.



As soon as I snapped this picture, Tory dumped 2/3 cup of vegetable oil all over the countertop. Missed the mixing bowl - whoops! "Uh oh, Mommy!" she said. I probably let Tory have too much free reign in the kitchen, but I think that's half the fun. There's a lot more mess to clean up than if I'd been doing the mixing solo, but I hope our time together develops into a love of cooking when she grows older. I don't remember helping my mom in the kitchen when I was little and it wasn't until I was married and had to cook that I learned my way. Heck, I'm still learning my way. Cooking is a measure in patience, trial and error and following direction. Those aren't bad skills for a little girl to learn. 


And yes, that's a potty chair in the background of these photos. We're in the midst of toilet-training around here and I assure you, there was lots of hand-washing taking place. I only wish I posted naked baby photos on the Internet because I snapped the most adorable picture of her bare bottom under that apron!


I enjoy play dates and our trips to the library, but smetimes chill days at home are just what the doctor ordered. What a great day with my little girl. These are the moments I'll cherish forever.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Bucket List

I'm digging the change in seasons. There's something about fall that's so soothing to me this year. I'm loving the brisk, cool mornings that give way to perfectly warm afternoons and having a few more maternity clothes to wear. Hello jeans, long-sleeve tees and scarves! (Although, someone should really invent a contraption to help very pregnant ladies pull on tall boots - whoo boy).

I got all Pinterest-y and made a initial monogram pumpkin for our front porch this week. It was seriously the easiest craft project ever. I bought a fake pumpkin at Michaels for 50% off, printed out the first initial of our last name on an 8x10 piece of paper and traced it onto the pumpkin. I probably had black paint somewhere in the house but I was too lazy to look for it, so I used a permanent black marker to color in the letter. BAM! Done. I love how it looks against these beautiful mums on our porch and the fact that I can use it again and again each autumn is even better. I can't wait to visit our favorite orchard and add some big orange pumpkins to the mix.



Now that my baby to-do list is in check, I'm feeling confident in planning several fun family activities before Baby Boy arrives. I have a feeling this might be my last chance to play around in the kitchen for a while or get crafty with Tory, so I want to take advantage of every opportunity to make those memories now. Here's my October Bucket List:
  • Visit Nature's Select Orchard - This is our favorite apple orchard and pumpkin patch located near the lake cabin. It's hardly ever busy, the farmers are so sweet and we've gone every year since Tory was born. It's tradition now, so we have to keep going for her sake! Plus, this year they have goats and donkeys and I know Tory will go crazy for them.
  • Pumpkin crafts with Tory - I've pinned a few Halloween crafts to do together, aiming for the "toddler friendly" ones she can be actively involved in and ones that aren't heavily focused on ghosts or monsters. (No need to expose her to those scarier things if she has no idea what they even are at this point). We already made this paper plate pumpkin craft. This one, this one and this one look easy and fun (girlfriend goes crazy for marshmallows, so I know this one will be a hit).   
  • Go to a Nebraska football game - We bought tickets to see Nebraska play Minnesota at the end of October. To say I'm excited to go to the game (and not have to work it!) is an understatement. Now I just have to cross my fingers Baby Boy doesn't arrive early because the game is cutting fairly close to my due date. Who am I kidding, I'll likely be kicking him out of the womb just like his sister. 
  • Go on a leaf hunt - Tory loves to pick up leaves and sticks, so I think she'll get a kick out of going for a walk one afternoon and maybe making a craft with all the items we find when we get back to the house.
  • Make homemade applesauce - Homemade applesauce is easy to make and so delicious. Think I'll try this pumpkin applesauce recipe in October's honor. 
  • Spend a day peeping fall colors - I've always wanted to take a road trip through Northern Minnesota /or Wisconsin to see the fall leaves at their prime. You have to time it just right when the leaves are at their peak color. Andi and I talked about making a day-trip one Saturday from the cabin.
  • Drink hot apple cider - Confession time: I had a serious pregnancy craving for hot apple cider lately and I've already had a few cups. Our Keurig makes it so easy to brew a cup whenever the fancy strikes. 
  • Eat a caramel apple - I've been eyeing these bad boys up at the grocery stores for a while now. Can't wait to sink my teeth in one!
  • Carve / paint pumpkins - No Halloween season is complete without carving pumpkins. I also bought a few mini pumpkins for Tory to paint and decorate one afternoon. 
  • Visit a corn maze - Can't decide if Tory would get a kick out of this one or not, but there's a few corn mazes on the way to the cabin. We'll have to stop and check one out.
  • Go for a hike in the woods amongst the falling leaves - We did this a few times last fall when we were at the cabin and it was so much fun. Nothing like crunching through the leaves and exploring the outdoors around you to make you live in the moment. 

  • Jump in a leaf pile - Mandatory to recreate this adorable photo this fall, obviously.
  • Make leaf-shaped sugar cookies - Better take advantage of the last full month of being pregnant when I can eat cookies and not feel guilty about it! Also, I already own leaf-shaped cookie cutters, so when in Rome ...
  • Go trick-or-treating - I have a feeling trick-or-treating will be even more fun with Tory this year. Girlfriend loves sheep, so I bought her the most adorable Halloween costume to wear on Halloween. Small snag in the plan because she refuses to try it on - ha! Stay tuned to see what Tory ends up wearing ...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Preschool Progress

I'm sure the world is tired of listening to my yammering about this subject, but I wanted to write an update about Tory's ECFE toddler class this week.

In one word: SUCCESS!

Many thanks to both Internet and in-real-life friends and family for their kinds words of encouragement and helpful suggestions last week on how to better prepare Tory for school days. As a parent, I just want the best for my little Bean and part of that is giving her learning and social opportunities while also letting her be two years old. The more time I had to digest our experiences the last two ECFE classes, the more convinced I became that this is the right choice for Tory and we needed to stick with it. Going into today, I mentally prepared myself to be as supportive, patient and comforting as she needed me to be.

To set her up for success, I talked quite a bit about school this past week. We checked out a book from the library about school and I took Alicia's advice by talking about Teacher Ann in various ways throughout the week. I meant to put together a social story as Jen suggested, but I ran out of time. I still plan to do this. I did make an "All About Me" book about Tory to bring to class and also printed out photographs of family members for Tory to look at if she got upset. This morning, I encouraged Tory to pick out a stuffed animal or baby doll to bring to school which we kept in her "school bucket" on the window sill in case she was sad. She chose to bring Minnie Mouse and a mini pumpkin along with her.

Tory was nervous as we drove to school and repeatedly asked me from the backseat to "stay" with her. She asked me to carry her into the school building and stuck to my leg like glue for the first fifteen minutes of ECFE. Luckily the first 20 minutes are free play time, so it wasn't a big deal. I finally got her interested in making an apple craft, then she seemed to loosen up a bit.

Next was "circle time," except Tory was finally warmed up and wanted to play. I reminded her she'd have time to play again after circle time was over. When the teacher announced it was time for the parents to split off into another room, I quickly kissed Tory on the head, said "see you later" and walked away. Last week I think I drew too much attention to the fact that I was leaving, so this time I quickly ripped the Band-Aid by telling her good-bye and left before she could think twice about it. This seemed to work better for both of us.

During the first half of child / parent separation time, I couldn't help but worry about how things were going for Tory in her classroom. The phone never rang to ask me back into the classroom, so I eventually relaxed. With about 10 minutes left of our ECFE session, the phone rang and asked two parents - myself and another mother - back into the classroom. Tory was crying, but not as badly as she had been the week before. She was easily calmed down by holding her mini pumpkin and having a drink of water. The teacher said Tory did great during the most of the class, but broke down in tears when they transitioned from play time to snack time. I think the change in activity probably gave Tory a chance to realize I wasn't there. And, for what it's worth, there were about four other kids (out of 11) crying during snack time while I was in the classroom so she wasn't the only one.

Overall, I call today a success. Tory has been happy this afternoon and nowhere near the emotional breakdown she experienced the last two weeks. She's playing normally this afternoon, isn't overly clingy and is currently taking a nap in her new big girl bed. I'm so proud of my little girl for adjusting to her new school. I was sure to smother her with kisses and tell her so after class today.

I know each week may be different depending on Tory's mood or influenced by things happening in her life. I'm just so happy we had a positive experience today because it reaffirms my feeling that we're doing the right thing for our kiddo. Hooray for progress!

Monday, September 23, 2013

If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

When I was in college, I had a regular babysitting gig watching two little girls on Fridays. The dad was a doctor in town and the mom stayed home full time. I remember thinking how privileged the mother was for having a regular babysitter every week so she could "run errands."

Fast forward 10 years and I wish I could call that lady and apologize for being so rude to her inside my head. I get it now! Of course she didn't want to lug her three kids (one was in school during the day) all over town when she could accomplish so much more in a few hours without them. Now that I'm a mom myself (to one active toddler who does not sit nicely in the grocery cart), I completely understand what a luxury (and how needed it is sometimes!) to have to a few hours of alone time each week.

Tory's first nanny, Allison, is babysitting for us on Monday mornings and holy cow, am I so thankful to have her back in our lives. For one, she does an amazing job and Tory loves her to pieces. I also trust her completely and will have no issue leaving Baby Boy in her care. I can only hope she doesn't have those same thoughts about stay-at-home moms and their "free time."

Most babysitter mornings, I usually run around town like a mad woman stocking up on groceries for the week, going to frequent doctor's appointments for the baby, getting my car's oil changed and whatever else I can fit into a few hours' time by myself. This morning was different. Tory's new big girl bed was scheduled to be delivered today, but I didn't receive the time confirmation until a few hours beforehand. Therefore, I grocery shopped yesterday and left my calendar fairly open today so I could be home to receive the delivery as needed. When the furniture company called to say they'd be over in the afternoon, it left me with four kid-free morning hours to fill. I could have done a million different things, but decided to treat myself to quiet time in a coffee shop. Rare is a time most mothers get to sit, relax and breathe. (Especially mothers with newborns, which will be me in 50 days or less).

I know how fortunate I am for the luxury of time and it doesn't go unappreciated. Today, I soaked in every minute and it felt amazing. Every mother should have the chance to catch their breathe once in a while; to come back to their kiddos recharged and ready to be the best parent they can be. #feelingblessed

(Also in my free time this morning, I decorated my front porch for fall which just makes me happy. I'll add some orange pumpkins after we visit the pumpkin patch).


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekend at Home

Tory and I had a great little weekend. Andi's traveling for work and it's on rare occasion we're actually at home on a Saturday/Sunday, so we took full advantage by crossing things off the baby to-do list and getting together with friends and family.

Something came over me Friday afternoon as I passed the storage room to throw in a load of laundry. Before I knew it, I was knee deep in bags, totes, seasonal decorations and baby gear. Our storage room had become quite the hodge-podge of stuff and I spent six full hours re-organizing it all. As part of my cleaning spree, I sorted through 12 totes of baby clothes to see what was gender neutral (answer: not much!) and reusable for Baby Boy. I also washed all the baby's clothing, blankets and bedding. My legs were jelly Friday night after working so hard, but it was well worth it. Mama nesting urge = satisfied.

Saturday morning, Tory and I met up with my friend Lindsey and her daughters Ashley and Taylor at a nearby park for Barnyard Boogie. Tory is absolutely crazy for barnyard animals so this event was right up her alley. The girls took turns riding the ponies and petting sheep, chickens, goats, rabbits, a dog, a cow and more. There was a tractor for the kids to sit on, a kid's DJ (yep, a kid's DJ who played hits like What the Fox Say) and a scarecrow picture coloring station. Best of all, it was a perfect fall morning to be outdoors.






When Andi's away, I like to do all the things he's never game for ... like ordering pizza and watch football all afternoon. Wild life I lead, indeed. So, Tory and I feasted on pizza for lunch (which I didn't even have to cook!), then she took a nap while I watched my Huskers and worked on her Big Sister present from Aden. I wonder how many other Nebraska football fans craft during the game?

Of course, we took lots of selfies throughout the day and sent them to Andi so he didn't forget about his girls.



... and he sent some selfies back to us, too, likely to assure I don't forget to talk about him. (Tory was blaming him hard-core for misplacing the remote earlier that morning and he hadn't been home for four days)!



Saturday evening, Tory and I went to Grandma Janie and Grandpa Jim's house so I could use Janie's sewing machine to finish one of my Big Sister presents for Tory. We had dinner and played for a while. Grandma and Grandpa invited Tory to spend the night in the new big girl bed they got for her, but my clingy mama's girl wasn't having it. I didn't push her, so she came home with me instead.

This morning, Janie and Jim came over to our house to take Tory to a local farmer's market so I could enjoy a few hours to myself. They stayed most of the afternoon helping me rearrange Baby Boy's nursery furniture and decorate his room. The nursery is finally taking shape and I'm really excited how it's coming together so far. Tory and I hosted Jodi and her kiddos for a play date this evening and it was really nice to catch up with her after a busy second half of the summer.

Crossing so many things off my baby to-do list this weekend makes me feel like I could actually have a baby someday soon and survive. Tomorrow, Tory's big girl bedroom set is being delivered and I'll be able to put the finishing touches on her room. I'm also meeting up with my girlfriend, Julie, tomorrow night to make some freezer meals in preparation for baby. I'm thoroughly impressed with how many things I was able to check off my list this weekend and feeling much more settled tonight as I type this. It's refreshing to have a weekend at home once in a while, especially one as productive as this one.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Preparing

This may be repeat info for those of you following me at Baby In The Bubble, but earlier this week Andi and I attended a tour at a "second choice" hospital we're considering for Baby Boy's delivery. "Hospital B" we'll call it is a closer distance to our house and has a new birthing wing while still being in our insurance's preferred network, so we're weighing our options between "Hospital B" and "Hospital A" (where we delivered Tory).

Since the tour, our upcoming stay in the hospital has been on my mind and I have to say, it's a bit strange being on the "been there, done that" side of delivering a baby. With Tory, Andi and I had no idea what to expect and I think it's safe for any parent to say, you never do until you experience it for yourself. Really, that goes for all aspects of parenting. What's more, I don't think any one labor or hospital stay is the same as another. There's so many variables involved in a baby's birth, the best you can do is plan what you can and pray for the rest.

I read a blog post the other day about making / bringing a door hanger to hang in the hospital to announce your baby's arrival and gender and while I think the door hanger idea is super cute, it also made me realize how not prepared I am for this baby's delivery. I haven't even thought about what necessities I'm bringing with us to the hospital, let alone making crafts to display in our room. Last time, Andi and I prided ourselves in not being one of those couples who rolls in with a giant luggage cart packed with stuff of stuff. Though in hindsight, there were some things I wished I had last time and will bring along this time -- like, more clothing options for myself and blankets/pillows to make us feel more comfortable. Delivering a baby in the hospital is kind of like staying in the most expensive / crappiest hotel where you have to bring everything along with you.

Since having Tory, I've heard examples of people bringing gifts or treats to the hospital for the nursing staff. A little Internet searching says some people bring things like cookies or muffins, or even travel-size lotions or hand sanitizers. Is this a "thing?" Should I have baked or purchased treats for my nursing staff two years ago, or is this something that's spread like wildfire through Pinterest? When Tory was born, I gave thank-you notes to my favorite nurses before we left the hospital, but I didn't bring food or gifts. I'm now wondering if I should add "buy muffins or cookies from a bakery" to my hospital packing list. Or, is this going above and beyond what the average person does?

With plus/minus eight weeks left, I'm quickly realizing I have so much more to do before Baby Boy's arrival. I think it's the downside of having a second baby; I don't feel the rush to complete any one thing (as in, I'm more interested in decorating my house for fall than going through totes full of baby stuff packed away) and suddenly I'm running down to the wire. Last night, I stayed up way past my bedtime writing a to-do list so I can actually start taking action. Things like "make freezer meals," "finish Christmas shopping" and "assemble big sister / little brother presents" made the list. Not feeling overwhelmed over here. Nope, not even a little bit. (EEK!)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What We're Eating: My Return to the Kitchen

Call it a case of nesting or simply the change in seasons, but I've had an itch to get back into the kitchen lately. Fall's crisp, cool weather makes me crave pumpkin muffins, hot apple cider and slow-cooker meals. (Except, just say no to those pumpkin spice coffee and espressos everyone raves about because they actually taste like poop). I think it's safe to say everyone in our house is enjoying the return of weekly meal plans and new recipes on the menu. (Relish the times, Husband! For in 8 short weeks, our world will be turned upside down with a new baby and my time in the kitchen will be non-existent).

Here's a round-up of a few recipes I made last week:

Crock Pot Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork
Rating: B
Blame it on pregnancy... I've had a serious craving for balsamic vinegar recipes lately. Like, we polished off a bottle of balsamic in the last month. Seriously! I saw this recipe for slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches with a balsamic drizzle and I thought it sounded amazing. It was a super easy recipe to toss together (my favorite kind). Unfortunately that evening, Andi and I planned to eat dinner after Tory's bedtime and she choose to have a huge meltdown. By 8:45pm and after dealing with toddler sleep drama for over an hour, the last thing I felt like doing was eating dinner. Hence, the "B rating." The dinner itself was tasty; I just wasn't in the mood anymore.

Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole
Rating: A
I could spend hours in the kitchen whipping up the fanciest meal and I'm sure Andi would appreciate it. But I've come to realize, all I really need to do is make the man a comfort foods meal and he's SO HAPPY. He loved this meal. I liked it, too, though I think it may have been more of a "side" than an "entree." Think of as an entire dish full of loaded baked potatoes. That's exactly what this was, and it didn't disappoint. Tory and I ate leftovers for lunch the next day, too.

Crock Pot Corn Chowder
Rating: A
This recipe was a surprise winner. I had lots of red potatoes to use up so I thought a soup might be the way to do it. I made this recipe last Friday and toted the soup to the cabin with us so we'd have something to eat after we arrived. Side note: Have I mentioned how car sick I've been during this pregnancy? Bringing a smelly slow-cooker full of soup into an enclosed car for 1 1/2 hour was not my brightest moment. I gagged with my nose stuck out a cracked window the entire drive there. After we arrived at the lake, we went on a boat ride while the soup finished cooking in the slow-cooker. Hours later when I wasn't so nauseous, we ate the soup and it was surprisingly delicious. The next day during the Husker football game, we ate soup leftovers and it was even better the next day.

*Note: I didn't have half and half as called for, so I used a mixture of heavy cream and 1% milk instead.

Garden Alfredo with Chicken
Rating: A
This was one of those recipes that wasn't complicated to make, but dirtied 17 different pans during preparation. (Confession time: those recipes are not my favorite). As a mom to a toddler, it's a challenge to make step-intensive meals with a little person underfoot. I can't concentrate. I lose my place. There's hot pans and a stove involved and, yeah, it just doesn't work well. That said, this recipe was delicious. I've never heard Andi compliment a meal of mine more than this one. I think he told me four separate times how much he loved it.

*Note: I left out the garlic and parsley and used egg noodles in place of pappardelle because I couldn't find them at my store.

Next on my recipe to-do list: slow-cooker chili and pumpkin muffins. Anyone have a good recipe to share?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Hard Parenting Day

Today's been a hard parenting day.

Tory and I attended our second ECFE toddler preschool class this morning and it was the first time separating mid-way into parent / child classrooms. Deep down, I knew she might have an issue with separating and that's exactly why I signed up for this type of class. Tory's has no prior experience with a parent leaving her in a "school environment." She does great with our nannies and babysitters (yesterday she said "see ya later, Mom!" when I left home for my OB appointment) but she was also at home on her own turf. I thought it would be good for her to have a classroom-type experience now to prepare her for real preschool next year.

Separating was HARD. I won't lie. Tory was a mess with tears streaming down her cheeks the moment I told her I was leaving for the nearby classroom. Her face was red, her eyes were puffy and she showed no signs of settling down.

It was also a bit embarrassing. I know the ECFE teachers have dealt with child separation issues before, but I was the only parent out of 11 others who's child cried when they left the room. After I tried to reassure Tory for a few minutes in the child classroom and it wasn't working, the teachers encouraged me to say good-bye, leave her be and see if she'd calm down after I left. When I walked into the parent classroom, the other mothers sighed in unison and gave me sympathetic looks. I know they empathize, but I felt super on display. Hey guys! My kid's the one freaking out in there! Oy. About 10 minutes later, Tory's teacher called the parent's phone and asked me to come back to the room. Tory sobbed for the last 15 minutes of class while I sat beside her.

Since class this morning, Tory's been a wreck. She's extra clingy this afternoon, hanging on my pant leg and even demanded to eat lunch while sitting on my lap. I get that she's nervous to let me out of her sight. I've been as patient as possible with her because I understand it's a lot for her to take in. It's also exhausting and I could really use a glass of wine. 8 more weeks, Apothic Red! There's currently a nap-refusing toddler snuggled under my arm watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse because mama needs a break from all the crying.

I thought ECFE would be a helpful experience in Tory's development. She is a big mama's girl and I do think it's important for her to have other social and learning experiences. But, I can't help but worry I'm pushing her too hard, too soon. Maybe she's not ready and why on Earth am I pushing her to be separated from me? She's 24 months old, for goodness sake! We have a lifetime ahead to do separate things. Tory has several transitions happening in her life right now -- a big girl bed being delivered next Monday, a new brother on the way and potty training on the horizon (though she seems to be leading the charge with that one). Is it really vital she learn to function in a classroom environment on her own right now? Today, I'm stuck in "am I doing the right thing?" parenting limbo.

Another mother said to me as we were leaving the building today that there were only two ECFE classes last year where she wasn't called back to comfort her daughter. So, that's a win because her child was finally able to separate today? I'm not sure I can stomach Tuesday after Tuesday this year of Tory in a tailspin. Yet, we'll try it again next week and I'm sure it'll get better eventually. This is the best thing for Tory, right? I hope so.    

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kids' Play Room Makeover

Our new kids' play room is finished! It's a big step in readying our home for Baby #2's arrival which goes something like this:

#1 Disassemble home office, sell hardly-used desktop computer, remove furniture DONE
#2 Move play room (currently upstairs) to downstairs' old office space DONE
#3 Decorate Baby Boy's nursery (formerly upstairs play room)
#4 Move crib and changing table from Tory's room to Baby's nursery; replace with new "big girl" bedroom set

Sixty days remaining on the baby time clock. No sweat, right?

BEFORE
Old Office

AFTER
New play room

(Pardon the iPhone photos ... I didn't want to trouble Andi to take wide-angle photographs with his good camera.)

Andi's mom and dad volunteered to paint Baby Aden's nursery one weekend while we were at the cabin and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to get started. The first step in the play room remodel required moving Tory's toys to the basement, which then meant we'd actually have to start playing in the basement. Truthfully, that's been half my hesitation. I know that's where our new play room is located so we'll have to play down there eventually but our basement is cold and it's a basement and I don't wanna....

The other part of my hesitation in starting this whole process is that once the play room is moved and the nursery is finished, Baby Boy's impending arrival is REAL. I can't wait for him to arrive - to meet him and smooch his little cheeks - and yet, I'm really nervous about the ways our lives will turn upside down when he does. By not having a nursery, it's almost like having a second baby is this wonderful fantasy and we can go on living our lives just as they are while we "plan" for him to join us. Completing the nursery means there will actually be a real baby who uses it. Hold me!

Also, also? I am not looking forward to moving Tory into a new "big girl" bed. Sleep transitions are scary times and her move to a big girl bed at the cabin has not gone well. 

Nursery painting day was this past Saturday which meant everything had to be moved out of the old (upstairs) play room and Baby's future nursery needed to be taped and ready for my in-laws. I'd rather have a root canal than have toys scattered all over my house with no assigned "home," so the painting date gave me the oomph to finish the kids' new play room last week.

Andi painted the old office space (which is now the new play room) when we moved into this house two years ago, so the walls were still in good shape. Three of the walls are a light gray color (Ashen Gray) and one wall is a darker color (Urbanite). I wanted the play room to be colorful and cheery, but I also dreaded the idea of painting over the dark wall. So, I decided to buy a large IKEA EXPEDIT shelving unit in white to contrast against the dark wall. We'd need toy storage anyway, so I thought this would be the cheapest / easiest way to kill two birds with one stone while avoiding painting the room all together. I used colorful storage bins I already had to fill cubbies within the shelves.   



I purchased this wooden See You Later Alligator sign to tie the bright, cheery colors together. I love how the sayings give the room a fun, playful vibe.



My lovely husband arranged to have the IKEA EXPEDIT bookshelf delivered and since he asked me for a list of "anything else I needed," I decided to throw a bunch of other stuff for the play room onto my list. So, I also got this artist's easel, a white kid's table with bright-colored chairs, and these wall hooks to hang backpacks and bags. (The colorful kids chairs weren't in at time of purchase, so I need to go back to IKEA to pick those up).




Lastly, I wanted a gallery for the kids' artwork, so I bought these frames on sale to make a wall collage. I selected various colors of frames to match the "see ya later alligator" print and the storage cubes in the room. My big idea was to glue clothespins to the tops of each frame so I could easily add/remove artwork from the frames, but for some reason no glue on Earth will stick to the frames I purchased. For now, I put pieces of scrapbook paper in the frames to give them color. I'm planning to take the glass out and fill the frames with cork board so I can just tack up artwork as needed.



Since there's a window in the room (which is lucky since we're in the basement!), I also added yarn above the window to hang pictures or artwork as well.



Shout out to my husband who put the bookshelf together and hung the frames, hooks and wall art for me without one complaint. I excel at dreaming up ideas for room makeovers, but I definitely couldn't have pulled the play room together without his help.

... and, that's it! This was a fairly simple room makeover since no painting was required. It's the addition of small details like the frames and storage cubes which really pulled the color scheme together. In all, we spent around $250 for the IKEA shelving unit, wall art, kid's play table, easel, picture frames and wall hooks (the shelving unit and wall art being the two big ticket items).

I'm happy to report, Tory and I have played in the new play room a few times and it hasn't been that bad being in the basement. I "suited up" in a hoodie and Tory insisted on wearing her fleece jacket (which was overkill because it's not that cold downstairs but whatever, kiddo). It was nice to spread out into the downstairs living room space to play and I forgot how comfy our sofa is down there. Plus, there's a TV and a fireplace so that'll come in handy this winter. On top of all that, I'm close to the laundry room so maybe my "Mom Productivity" will be off the charts now that I can play and knock at chores at the same time.

New play room = complete. Now, onto the baby's nursery! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

What We're Eating: Toddler Meals

A while back, a fellow blog reader asked me to write about meals for Tory. It's taken me a month or so to circle back to the request because, honestly, I didn't think I had enough "meal material" to share. Nothing I feed Tory is ground-breaking by any means and variety usually depends on how creative I'm feeling in the kitchen ... or whether Andi's traveling for work (in which case, we're on cereal and sandwich benders).

I'd like to say I feed Tory exactly what we're eating for meals, but that's not always the case. Andi arrives home from work around 6:30pm or 7:00pm most days and by that time in the evening, Tory and I are usually well into her bedtime routine. Given his schedule, it's on rare occasion we all eat dinner together so I typically make Tory dinner around 5:30pm and another meal for Andi and I to eat together after she's in bed. Andi's gone to work before Tory and I are up and moving for the day, so breakfast and lunch are typically just Beanie and I.

I wish we had a schedule that introduced Tory to more "grown-up" dinner foods at an earlier age. Tory's a picky eater and I think of a lot of her preferences stem from meal times early on that catered to her individual tastes. Now, I'd rather her eat something than nothing, so I usually give her foods I know she'll eat. It's not like I'm serving up fast food every day, so I don't have much guilt about it.

Tory's favorite foods include cottage cheese, string cheese, yogurt, most types of sandwiches, hummus and carrots, grilled cheese, quesadillas, frozen waffles and toast. She's a strange kid in that she's only recently started to eat fruit (knowingly / willingly) and her favorites amongst the fruit category are strawberries, bananas, peaches and plums. Vegetables are still very "miss" with her. She'll only eat corn on the cob (if it's smothered in butter, just like her mama) so I try to sneak veggies into her diet through store-bought yogurt packets. I've tried to blend my own smoothies for her to eat, but Tory's got a "thing" against loud noises so that's usually more trouble than it's worth!

Dips are truly my best friend when it comes to meal time. Tory is twice as likely to eat something if she can dip it, so I usually serve ketchup, sour cream or yogurt alongside most foods. For some reason, Ranch dressing seems to cause a rash on her mouth so I leave it out of the mix.


Here's a snapshot of toddler meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks:

Breakfast
*always accompanied with a side of fruit ... whether she eats it or not
Frozen Waffles
Pancakes
Toast - topped with Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter or Jelly
Yogurt - typically Chobani, or sometimes I buy a bulk container and mix yogurt with applesauce, mashed bananas and cinnamon
Scrambled Eggs - sometimes I mix in cottage cheese
Oatmeal - mixed with peanut butter and sliced bananas
Bran Cereal
Egg Cups - Recently, I made some in muffin tins with yellow squash, eggs and seasonings which she really liked
Homemade Muffins - good way to sneak in fruits and veggies!

Lunch
*paired with fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt or hummus
Sandwiches (Tory and I eat a lot of them because I like sandwiches and Andi doesn't ... also they're quick and easy) - Peanut Butter and Jelly, Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup - one of our favorites!
Quesadillas - shredded cheese and tortillas, or I use Flatout wraps with refried beans and shredded cheese
Egg and Cheese Sandwich - microwave scrambled egg for 1 minute, add slice of cheese to toasted bread with mayo

We had a picnic at the zoo last week and here's what I made for lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt squeeze packet, grapes, carrots and hummus



Dinner
*I try to serve dinners with a vegetable, though she rarely eats it  
Chicken Nuggets - Tory likes these best
Breaded Chicken Breast
Broccoli and Cheese Cups
Mashed /or Smashed Potatoes
Pasta Noodles and Sauce
Macaroni and Cheese

If Tory's hungry any time of the day I will allow her to eat, so I carry a variety of snacks wherever we go. Regulars include: applesauce packets, yogurt packets, granola bars, Teddy Grahams, Goldfish, fruit snacks and/or animal crackers.

That's it! Pretty simple and fairly boring. With Fall on its way, I find myself more interested in meal planning again, so maybe that'll stir up some inspiration for new (grown up and toddler) meals in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tory Favorite Book: Brown Bear

I'm sure this is of no interest to anyone but Andi and our parents, but we finally captured Tory reading her favorite book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? on video the other night before bedtime.

video


Tory is obsessed with this book and has been for quite a while now. She insists on reciting the colors on the inside cover repeatedly and listening to her little two-year-old voice name the book characters on the very last page nearly brings Andi and I to tears on a nightly basis. I mean, when did our girl become so smart? I could just squeeze her.

I want to bottle this girl up sometimes and keep her this way forever. Thankfully modern technology allows us to capture this moment in time since we can't freeze-frame her forever.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tory's First Day of (Pre) Preschool

The moment I became a mom, I began to worry about providing the best for Tory. (Heck, I started to worry from conception, really.) Tory's got a few big changes coming her way; namely, becoming a big sister this winter and I've been concerned she'll feel lost in the shuffle. I'm putting it mildly when I say Tory rules the roost around here. There's going to be a period of adjustment when Baby Boy arrives in November and honestly, how that transition affects Tory has been my biggest concern regarding Baby #2.

Tory's a big mama's girl which honestly, I love. I'm fortunate for the opportunity to spend every day with her, but I also stress she'll have an even harder time starting school programming because she's so used to me being with her every single day. So, Andi and I agreed enrolling Tory into a structured toddler program outside the home would be a good way for her to learn and grow while socializing with kids her age. I toured a nearby Christian preschool with a two-year-old program, but ultimately decided to enroll Tory in the Twin Cities' Early Child Family Education (ECFE) program which offers various classes for parents and children. Part of me really wanted a drop-off two-year-old preschool (like the Christian preschool program where I could drop her off and go run errands or spend some one-on-one time with Baby Brother) but a nagging part of me worried Tory's young age coupled with her first experience with parent separation would be enough adjustment. With a late August birthday, Tory is literally the youngest child in her age group based on the school district's cut-off dates. There's a big difference between a child who's 24 months old and another who's six months older, and I didn't want Tory to feel overwhelmed.

On Tuesday, Tory and I attended the first day of her weekly ECFE class. In this program, she and I attend the class together and half way through the session, we separate into different classrooms. I don't get any "mama free time" like I was hoping for, but it gives Tory the experience of attending preschool alone in small doses.

I started to talk up "school" a few days prior to the class and Tory's response every time I brought up the subject was "no!" I tried associating school with other kids who attend (like her cousin Brooke, for example) but it didn't seem to play up her interest in "school" any further. Tuesday, Tory even started to fuss as we were loading into the car to go to class. I'm not sure if she was nervous about school in general or worried I was going to leave her there, but her reaction was pretty uncharacteristic of my bubbly girl.



Once inside the toddler classroom, however, Tory perked right up and ran from toy to toy with excitement. She zoomed cars on the floor with another little boy in class, then pushed baby dolls around in the stroller. She didn't seem the least bit interested in where I was standing. Look at my girl go! She doesn't need me one bit. What was I even worried about?

... and then "Circle Time" came and Miss Outgoing had a little trouble listening to Teacher Anne's direction. There was a definite difference in children's ages (a younger "two" vs. an older "two) when it came to sitting patiently in a circle. Tory had no interest in sitting quietly with the other kids and kept getting up to play with the toys. I was a bit embarrassed when Tory kept running over to the play slide and other kids started to follow her. Oy.

Next, the parents met in another portion of the room (no separating into different classrooms on the first day) while the kids interacted nearby with the teacher. Tory did a great job playing independently for the first ten minutes or so until she slipped on the ground near the sandbox and started to cry. Then it was all over. Tory didn't want anyone to console her but me and there was still twenty minutes of class left to go. She sat on my lap for the remainder of the time.

As soon as we loaded into the car after ECFE class was over, Tory melted down. I think the combination of the 90 minute class, meeting new people and being in a new environment was just a little much for my girl. But, as her mom, I'm glad she felt safe enough to let go of her emotions after class when she was by my side. Tory fell asleep an hour early Tuesday afternoon, curled up in my bed while reading books. Poor Beanie was just tuckered out.



Overall, I'm really glad we selected the program we did (parent / child separation class vs. drop-off preschool). This is Tory's first experience with a preschool setting and I hope the gradual exposure to me leaving her proves to be a good transition to real preschool, then kindergarten and beyond. Tory's a smart cookie, so I know she'll adapt. And while she does, I'll continue to give her all the support she needs while worrying deep inside every step of the way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Babymoon Weekend

I love being a stay-at-home-mom, I really do. In fact, I've never felt more satisfied in a job than I do right now. But ...

Everyone needs a break sometimes, even when their "work" is parenting.



My mom joked while they were visiting last week that Tory sounds just like Stewie on Family Guy. (How my mom is "with it" enough to quote Family Guy, I have no idea). I saw this clip the other day and thought, OMG. That really is like Tory. She hangs on my pant leg and chants the m-word from sun-up to sundown (and usually a few times in between). I love being home with her and I'm grateful even having the opportunity to hear her call me Mom everyday, but sometimes mama needs a break.

So, when Andi's mom offered to watch Tory for the weekend, I all but jumped through the telephone receiver and shouted, "Yes! We would love that!" Andi and I were in need of a day or two together to reconnect. Life has been busy this summer.

We called this past weekend our "babymoon" before Baby Brother arrives. From experience I know life will only become more complicated this winter with the arrival of a new baby and the holidays mixed in on top of that. We considered using our one night away to go somewhere new or maybe take a trip up to Duluth, but ultimately decided to spend the weekend at the cabin. Why go somewhere and spend tons of money when we already own our little slice of paradise? Plus, I think we've only been to our cabin one other time without Tory, so it was still something different for us.

Andi's mom spent the night at our house Friday night, so Andi and I scooted out the door early Saturday morning before Tory was even awake for the day. I wanted to stop by our favorite French bakery on the way out of town for yummy croissants, so we did that. Then, Andi and I took our time along the 1 1/2 hour drive to the cabin, stopping by a few furniture stores to look for a new bedroom set for Tory and scout out docks for sale by the cabin. I planned nothing for weekend meals (didn't have to! no kiddo in tow!) so we also stopped by a small town farmer's market on the way for veggies and bread. I think Andi and I talked more in those few hours during our car ride than we have in the last month. Isn't it nuts how the absence of a child(ren) allows you to have real conversations with your spouse? So nice. So needed.

Once Andi and I arrived at the cabin, we immediately headed out to the lake to float in the water and relax. Then, we took a leisurely pontoon ride around the lake. Not that I don't love boat rides with my Tory Bean, but it was a nice change to sit and relax instead of constantly making sure Tory's safe or filling up umpteen buckets of water to "make soup" while we cruise. Later, Andi and I ran into cabin friends' Josh and Krista who have a little daughter, Hannah, who's Tory's age. We invited them over to our cabin for the afternoon to float around with us while Hannah took her nap. I wasn't worried about having friends over with a toddler because Hannah's one of those crazy kids who takes 3 hour naps in the afternoon. While she slept, the four of us had a fun afternoon eating lunch together and floating in the lake. The weather was just perfect on Saturday -- hot and in the 90's - and we soaked up every minute.

Saturday night, Andi and I went out to dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, Calderwood. We've eaten at this supper club once before and had a terrible experience. They were literally out of all food when we were there and the service was horrible. Yet, lots of people on the lake talk about this place being one of their favorites so Andi and I decided to give it another shot. Last chance, Calderwood, or you're outta here!



Calderwood ... got the boot. Overall, our experience was better than the first time we dined there, but nothing spectacular. Andi ordered the restaurant's touted prime rib and I had a petit filet. Our meal was sub-par, but the company was excellent. Andi and I had a nice time chatting over dinner and people-watching all the old regulars. We concluded our evening with a stop by our cabin neighbors / landlords' for drinks around the bonfire. Very rarely do we have the chance to stay up late and sit by the fire when Tory's around so it was a nice treat.

I woke up Sunday morning around 8:30am to breakfast in bed served by my husband. Fresh farm potatoes, croissants from my favorite French bakery and local Wisconsin cheese served with piping hot coffee. Excellent.



Andi and I spent Sunday morning removing and rearranging some of the previous cabin decorations and making plans (and placing orders!) for new items. With a Tory hall pass until 7pm Sunday evening, we decided to take the Ranger ATV out for a ride. Andi and I were having so much fun together, we ended up riding various ATV trails around the area for 50 miles Sunday morning. There were some great wooded trails (vs. the paved road / farm animal scenery we usually see with Tory) and had the best time just riding along together. One nice thing about the Ranger is Andi and I are able to sit next to one another inside the cab and still chat while riding along.


Sexy safety glasses ... it was just a *little* dusty on the trails


After our ride, we stopped by The County Line for lunch, then came back to the cabin for more relaxing. I took a short cat nap before we packed up and drove back to the Cities.

Our babymoon weekend was the perfect way for Andi and I to reconnect as a couple before the craziness of Baby #2 and parenting Tory take hold again. We missed our little girl something fierce, but we sure are lucky to have the chance to get away from it all every once in a while.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Things I Love: Toddler 18-24 Months Edition

Just when it seems like I've got a handle on things as a parent, something changes and I'm left scrambling to figure out Tory's new "thing." This past month, it was Tory's refusal to sit in a high chair which had me re-learning how to manage meal times with her. I mean, obviously it isn't an Earth-shattering problem I'm facing over here (I can almost hear Andi say "that is your biggest worry?") but it was an interruption in my daily routine; a new road block to navigate.

Tory started eating meals at the dining room table (my expensive dining room table which I've prided myself in having decorated and pristine over the years). After a handful of meal periods, there was yogurt smeared all over my table runner and food smashed into the grooves of the table. I sighed with defeat at the end of every meal time, thinking there had to be a way to contain the food mess previously controlled by her high chair tray. Then, a mama light bulb moment hit: a placemat.

Of course, I turned to trusty Amazon to see what options were available to two-day ship to my doorstep. I thought they were fairly expensive for simple placements, so I picked up a Minnie Mouse one at Target for $1.99 (can't find the link online). The good news: the placemat discovery is working ... mostly. The $1.99 Target version slips around on the table, so it doesn't always contain Tory's food mess, but it helps. I might have been better off spending $10 for a non-slip placemat on Amazon (and I may still buy one.) Now I just need to work on getting Tory to actually *sit* at the table to eat her meal vs. getting up a million times to play.

- USEFUL -

Placemat
Source


Sippy Cup
Tory's been off the bottle for a while now, but she still demands a cup of water at naps and bedtime. The only no-spill sippy cup I've found is this Nuby Super Spout Gripper Cup and believe me, I've tried a lot of different cups. They all say they're no-spill but this one really, truly is. If you have a Wal-Mart near you, buy them there because they're about half the cost of anywhere else.



Umbrella Stroller
Another helpful purchase as of late has been this umbrella stroller. I have a feeling we're turning into one of those families who has 17 baby strollers in their garage (we have three currently), but this one is great for toddlers. A few months back, Andi and I took our expensive City Mini stroller on a flight to Nebraska and found it returned to us planeside with a bum wheel. Technically, the stroller wasn't broken completely but the front wheel's brace was loose from poor handling. We immediately purchased an umbrella stroller to use for travel that a) we didn't care as deeply about, and b) was smaller to maneuver through airports. I like this particular umbrella stroller because it's still high quality (comfortable for Tory, turns nicely) compared to some of the very-cheap umbrella stroller versions out there. My only gripes about this stroller are that it's difficult to turn using only one hand and the sun shade is virtually useless as designed. For the purchase of airport / compact travel though, it's perfect.

Source

iPad Mini Car Mount
I've mentioned this find before, but one of my favorite purchases lately has been this iPad Mini Car Mount. It's no secret Tory isn't a fan of car rides and a little Mickey Mouse Clubhouse goes a long way to make our cabin trips on the weekends more pleasant. This car mount fits easily over a car headrest and the iPad attaches with Velcro so it's easy to install / un-install.




Fruit Bowl
One recent 'a ha parenting moment' has been the addition of a fresh fruit bowl in Tory's view. I usually have a fruit and veggie bowl on the counter, but I ran out of room the other day and set it in the center of the dining room table. Suddenly my never-eat-fruits toddler turned into a bananas / peaches / plum hound. I know most parents don't have a hard time getting their toddlers to eat fruit, but I realized that putting anything in her eyesight made it more visible and appealing.


- FAVORITE TOYS / PRESENTS -

Kitchen and Accessories
My parents gave Tory a play kitchen for her 2nd birthday and it's been a big hit every since she opened the package. But even before that, Tory loved pretending with toy food, plates, spoons and cups. Her favorite thing to do is "make soup" by stirring a pot and serve "tea" with little cups. Even measuring spoons, silicone muffin cups and muffin tins make it into her pretend play.

The kitchen set my parents gifted is this one with electronic stove burns and a play phone. Tory really loves all the action and shouts "oh no!" every time her pot boils over for too long. There were some "fancier" kitchen sets out there, but I specifically asked for this one because it's plastic, easy to move around (it's currently stationed in my living room but will eventually make it downstairs to the playroom) and perfect for Tory's size at age 2.



Cozy Coupe
There's a reason just about every kid on the planet has a certain toy and the Cozy Coupe is one of them. Tory loves this toy. Actually, every single kid I've ever seen play with this car loves it ... even my six year old niece. Andi's parents gave Tory a Cozy Coupe car with trailer for her 2nd birthday and she's obsessed with it. I've never seen the trailer before, but it's a great addition. Tory puts all her babies and toys inside for a ride and I can picture her little brother riding in there someday, too. Too cute and so much fun.



Books
Tory's always loved books and they were still a big hit between the age of 18-24 months. We read the same few books over and over and over before she initiates a new one into the rotation. Some of Tory's favorites the last few months have been Amazing Airplanes (which is a great way to introduce / explain airport travel), Press Here, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? (responsible for Tory learning to recognize colors), Noisy Barn and the Animals book.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Wrap-Up

My emotions are crashing today after spending an awesome Labor Day holiday weekend with my family. In the seven years I've lived in Minnesota, it never seems to get easier having my parents and siblings visit me here, then depart home for Nebraska a few days later. I practically begged my parents to stay an extra day this trip - which they did, visiting from Thursday to Tuesday this time - and it still wasn't long enough. Never enough time to show them all the facets of our lives here; the "see you soon's" still as difficult to muster as if they'd been here only a day.

Besides, the sights and smells of September tug at my heart strings more than any other month. The way our three-season porch smells on a cool fall morning or the sound of kids unloading from school buses near my house reminds me of being home with Tory in the days after she was born. I felt so vulnerable then, so alone as I watched my parents pull away from my drive-way and I couldn't help but feel those same emotions yesterday as they left for Nebraska again.

Yesterday I tried to focus my mind on the great memories we made at the lake cabin this past weekend. We had a really fabulous time. The entire weekend was just perfect. My parents arrived Thursday afternoon, along with my Grandpa George (my dad's dad) who's never been to Minnesota before or seen our life here. Andi was coming off his three-day juice cleanse so he made a fabulous dinner for all of us on Thursday night (my favorite Caprese Chicken recipe, salad and grilled potatoes) and we all played with Tory and her new kitchen set which was a birthday present from Nana and Papa (my parents). Tory was in seventh heaven having my parents here in her own house. She was literally bouncing off the walls, dragging every single toy she owns out of the play room to show them. My dad and grandpa played hide and seek with her for at least 45 minutes before dinner. She just couldn't get enough of them being at "Tory's house."

My sister and her family arrived at our house late Thursday evening and we all caravaned to our Wisconsin lake cabin early Friday morning. We stopped along the way at Eichen's Bistro for cheese and snacks, then spent the rest of Friday lounging in the lake. Friday was Tory's actual birthday (though we celebrated her birthday party on Saturday) and while she's two and doesn't have a preference, I can't think of a better way to spend a birthday.








We grilled delicious Nebraska steaks my mom brought up with her for Tory's birthday dinner and sang happy birthday to Tory over strawberry shortcake for dessert. Tory wasn't sure what to make of the birthday candles at first ("hot!" she exclaimed) until she realized all the singing and candle-blowing was in her honor. Then Tory repeated "more!" again and again, asking us to keep singing "hap birday" to her. It was the cutest thing.





I decided to be a nice mommy and let Tory stay up past her bedtime for her first ever bonfire. It was her birthday, after all. (Note: THIS WAS NOT A SMART MOVE.) Andi built a bonfire in the yard and we all gathered 'round after dinner for s'mores. Tory a bit scared of the fire ("hot!" she said over again and again) but she was a big fan of her first s'more. #justlikeherdad



The "not smart" part came afterwards when Neeley went to bed and Brooke and Tory cozied up in our bed watching an episode of Super Why. Brookie quickly fell asleep, but Tory was wide awake and super over-tired. I tried to lay down with her to read books and initiate our regular bedtime routine, but Tory was having none of it. She screamed and SCREAMED for two hours. So, lesson learned. Don't be a "nice mama" and let the birthday girl stay up way past her bedtime. Girlfriend needs to keep to her scheduled routine. Even later that night, my brother Adam and his girlfriend arrived at the cabin from Nebraska. 

Andi's parents joined us at the cabin on Saturday for Tory's ladybug birthday party. The weather was fabulous that day as we celebrated the birthday girl and relaxed by the lake. 



Sunday, the weather turned a bit cooler so Andi took the men shooting somewhere nearby the cabin while the ladies stayed back at the cabin with the kids. Sounds like the guys had a really fun time together. My dad couldn't stop talking about how much fun he had which made Andi and I really happy. It was neat to find something all the guys enjoying doing together -- my grandpa, dad and brother, Andi and my brother-in-law, Jason.



Everyone but my parents left for home on Monday. Since the weather was cloudy and cooler on Monday as well, my parents, Andi and I took our time closing up the cabin and then came back to our house in the Cities for the night. My parents have only been to my house a handful of times, so every time they're here feels special. We ordered in Chinese food and put together my new bookshelf for the kid's playroom. We don't get to spend much alone time with my parents, especially on our turf, so it was a nice end to a fun-filled weekend.

Sigh. And now our fun Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The next big event on the docket is Baby Boy's birth which means the return of my family to Minnesota once again. That visit will be much more chaotic with the arrival of our new baby, so I'm really glad we had this time over Labor Day to relax with my family here. A great weekend of memories, for sure.