Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mommy Comes Back

Time for another update regarding Tory's progress in the toddler program at preschool. I want to have documentation of our journey through this stage in Tory's development as her interest in "school" seems to evolve every week. It's now been eight weeks since we started our school district's ECFE program and yesterday was the first day Tory didn't cry the minute she realized where we were spending our morning. Progress!

One thing the parent educator (whom I love, by the way) said to me a few weeks ago is that staying home with Tory everyday isn't a bad thing. It's a good thing, I just have to be more planful in creating opportunities for Tory to experience the world without me. Now, I know staying at home with my child(ren) isn't a bad thing, but at the beginning of this program I felt discouraged watching Tory's fellow classmates easily handle separation from their parents while my child struggled. As trying as the last eight weeks have been for both of us, Tory's slowly making progress in learning how to function independently in a school setting.

To recap, the first four weeks were the most difficult. Period. Tory sobbed uncontrollably anytime I mentioned the word "school," and repeated "Mommy, stay! Mommy, stay!" in a frantic voice until I reassured her I wouldn't leave her. She'd cling to me for days after class because she was fearful she'd be left behind. School was difficult for her, and it was hard on me as her mother. I felt like I was pressuring Tory to do something she wasn't ready for and I was also mentally exhausted by the excessive whining and clinginess.

After a month of serious drama, I made the executive decision not to separate from Tory during class time. Tory associated all things "school" with separation and the minute she figured out where we were going on Tuesday mornings, she burst into tears. She cried before, during and after class. She cried if we read a book about school or saw her blue school bucket sitting in the closet. I decided it was better for Tory to have a positive experience at school in general than to focus on parent / child separation. I reassured Tory I would stay with her the entire class time. I would not leave her. And, I didn't. At first, she clung to me like glue, but eventually started to relax a bit and interact in her class. With me in the classroom, Tory also became more familiar with the toddler room teacher and some of her little classmates.

Last Tuesday at school (Week 7), Tory seemed interested in playing with toys when parent / child separation time came, so I told her I'd be back in a bit and left. She cried, of course, but I never got called back to the classroom. Tory made it through the entire 45 minutes of separation time by herself. When the parents came back to the classroom at the end of the session, Tory was beaming from ear to ear. Her face was red so she'd obviously been upset but she wasn't crying at the moment. The teacher said they read Tory's favorite book during snack time and Tory was able to (mostly) hold it together during class. I'm pretty sure the teacher comforted her most of the time.

Yesterday for the first time, Tory didn't cry in the car on the way to school. She told me she didn't want to go to school when she saw me load up her school bucket into the car, but she wasn't too upset. We arrived at school and Tory used the bathroom before class, as has been our routine. They have a kid-sized toilet which Tory really likes and it provides good motivation to get her inside the school building. After using the bathroom and washing her hands, Tory marched right down the hallway to her classroom door and picked up her name tag. She walked inside the classroom on her own (!!) and immediately started to color at the easel station. I was so impressed! Even the teachers commented how happy Tory seemed to be at school. Tory happily played during free time and was engaged in singing and dancing during circle time. When it came time for me to leave for the parent / child separation portion of class, I kissed Tory on the head and told her Mommy would be back soon. She started to cry and the teacher came over to console her. I waited for the call to come back to the classroom, but it never came. At the end of class, Tory was beaming with excitement when she saw me at the door. "Mommy came back!" she said, wrapping her arms around my neck and planting a big kiss on my cheek. "Yes, Mommy always comes back," I said. After eight weeks, Tory is finally getting it! The teacher reported that none of the kids cried during the session and they sang, danced, read books and ate a snack as a class.

It's been interesting -- the "Mommy comes back!" -- phrase. Tory says it regularly now, whenever the world "school" is mentioned in passing or even when she has a babysitter at home. At night when Andi comes home from work, Tory says "Daddy came back!" when she hears the garage door opening. I know it's on her mind quite a bit because randomly she'll say to me, "Tory school. Mommy comes back." It's taken two months of practice, but Tory's developing the recognition and memory associated with a parent leaving and coming back to her again. I'm so proud of my little girl and how far she's advanced in this journey. There were times I questioned if we were doing the right thing for her, but now I'm confident signing Tory up for toddler preschool was a good thing. Plus, I'm gaining some valuable insight in the parent-portion of class by listening and learning about toddler development. I'm excited to watch Tory's progress through the remainder of the year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weekend Recap

Busy weekend 'round these parts. We're officially sticking close to home until Baby Aden arrives, so Andi, Tory and I filled Saturday and Sunday with activities around the Twin Cities. (Not that I believe Baby Boy is planning an early entrance into the world. No, sir, I do not). It's so weird for us to be home on the weekend since we're usually at the lake cabin. Strange to wake up with breakfast on Saturday morning in our own kitchen; fun to have play dates with friends and attend family gatherings.

Saturday, we met up with our friends Val and Brionn to watch our dear Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. I've been looking forward to this game for months since it's a rare treat we actually make it to a game...especially one in our own town. All week, Timehop reminders pumped me up for the game with photos of past Huskers weekend shenanigans.

Like this pic of Andi and I at a game six years ago in Lincoln. Babies! More hair! So young and kid-free!

Or, this one from 2009. Another pre-kid trip to the game in Lincoln with our Nebraska friends. This couldn't have been the last time we were back for a game, but maybe it was? Having babies definitely throws a curve-ball into weekend road-trips to Lincoln these days.

I will say, it was waaay more fun attending a game at TCF Bank Stadium than working it. I ran into quite a few of my old co-workers on Saturday and received several "Having another baby? Weren't you just pregnant?" comments. It's been 11 months since I worked at the U of M and I guess it would seem like I just had a baby if you haven't seen me in a year's time. My beloved Huskers lost to the Gophers on Saturday (first time in 50+ years!) but our crew still had a great time together. The premium seating tickets Andi scored didn't hurt either.

Here's Brionn, Val, Andi and I at the game on Saturday. Sorry, Andi, you barely made the pic! Guess those in-seat photos are never the greatest. It was a chilly 40 degrees on Saturday morning at the game, but thankfully I had my little baby heater cooking inside me. For the first time in my entire life, I was actually HOT (or just the right temp in a long-sleeve tee, vest and scarf) while everyone else was freezing.

Then on Sunday afternoon, Tory and I granted Andi a hall pass (which he used on working - lame!) and met up with our friends Lindsey and Ashley at Como Zoo for their Halloween Zoo Boo event. I prepped Tory all afternoon about wearing her adorable sheep costume but when it came down to the moment, she refused to put it on and opted to dress up as Minnie Mouse instead. This mama was a little disappointed because the sheep costume is so warm, unique and absolutely adorable but Miss Tory knows what she wants. My little Minnie was still cute ... even though twenty million other little girls at Zoo Boo were dressed up as the same thing. (Stab in my mama heart). Luckily, Sunday afternoon was a beautiful fall day so we were able to get away with Tory not wearing a coat over her costume. Tory's friend, Ashley, was dressed as Elmo and kids and parents alike were going ga-ga over her get-up.

The girls trick-or-treated throughout the zoo and collected lots of goodies in their pumpkin pails. It was nice how not all the treats were candy. Tory really liked the stickers, coloring pages and even a fun Domino animal game we've played a few times since Sunday. I was pretty surprised Tory seemed to "get" the whole process of trick-or-treating. She had no problem walking up to adults dressed in costumes, holding out her pail and saying trick-or-treat. She even said thank-you to everyone who gave her something and stood there a little confused when costume characters didn't have anything to offer (like the fairy in the photo above). As we drove home from Zoo Boo, Tory begged for "one more trick-or-treat" over and over. My friend Lindsey said Ashley chanted "again! again!" during their drive so I'm glad the girls had a fun night. Hopefully Tory will be just as excited to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood on Halloween night.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pumpkin Carving

We did a lot of fun Halloween activities when I was a little kid -- assembling popcorn "hands", making homemade caramel apples and decorating our bedroom windows with construction paper ghosts and goblins. I remember pumpkin carving being a VERY BIG DEAL and watching proudly as our jack-o-lanterns flickered brightly on our front porch. And, of course, trick-or-treating on Halloween night was a fun family night event as we dressed up in costume and treat-or-treated around the neighborhood before finally ending at Grandma's house for a Halloween evening get together with my cousins.

I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween as an adult (is it weird I'm still freaked out by all the scary costumes and gory decor?), but I do love passing along some of the more "friendly" traditions to Tory. We made Halloween crafts and cards earlier this week and I had visions of spending a Halloween-themed evening with Andi and Tory this weekend carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds. Unfortunately, Andi had to work Friday night so Tory and I were left to create our own fun. I ordered take-out pizza for dinner, cranked up the tunes and set up a pumpkin carving station on the kitchen floor.

This was Tory's first time actually carving pumpkins and she seemed a little confused by the whole process. She kept asking for paint as that's what I usually let her do with little mini pumpkins. I cut open the top of one pumpkin, gave Tory a spoon and encouraged her to scoop out the pumpkin's guts. Of course, she was having none of that business and kept saying "gooey! gooey!" As I was carving, I asked Tory if she wanted a "happy" pumpkin or a "surprised" pumpkin and she voted for a smily face, so we ended up with a regular ol' jack-o-lantern on our front porch.

After a while, Tory warmed up a bit more and played in the bowl of pumpkin seeds I'd collected. In fact, flinging wet seeds all over the kitchen floor using her little chipmunk toy was quite the highlight of her evening. (Why do I even lay out paper to contain the mess for these projects? I always end up scrubbing the floor anyway).

Apron mandatory.
Pants optional.

These photos give the allusion Tory was into carving after a while but in reality, she dropped her spoon  in the pumpkin and was trying to retrieve it without getting her hands dirty. Tricky Mommy photography skillz.

And finally, our finished jack-o-lantern! I set a few candles inside the pumpkin and turned out the front porch lights so Tory could see the jack-o-lantern in full effect. She was in awe and all the mess of carving pumpkins and seeds scattered on my kitchen floor was totally worth it.

P.S. I discovered Mr. Clean Magic Erasers remove leftover Sharpie markings on jack-o-lanterns. Is there anything those little erasers can't do?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Cards and Crafts

I picked up a few Halloween craft supplies in the Dollar Section a few weeks back, so I figured now's as good of time as any to put those items to good use. Both Tory's sets of grandparents gave her Halloween gifts already, so we made our own Halloween cards to send as thank-you's.

I borrowed some inspiration from various Internet searches for these projects. For the thank-you card, I didn't have any black paint on hand (nor did I feel like making my own by combining colors), so I traced Tory's handprint on black construction paper for the "spider" and painted a simple white spider web on the card's front for the background. Tory's excited for any craft that involves tracing her hands and feet, so she was a big fan of this one.

Spooky Spider Halloween Thank-You Card

What You'll Need:
Black, orange and white construction paper
White paint
Q-tip or paint brush
Pencil or marker
Googly eyes
Blank envelope

Trace child's hand on black construction paper, then cut the shape out to make the "spider." Glue googly eyes on the spider handprint. Cut then fold in half orange and white construction paper to fit inside blank envelope. (I buy these blank envelopes in bulk for mailing various invitations, handmade cards, etc). I glued the orange and white construction paper pieces together to make an orange "outside" and a white "inside" of the card. Use a Q-tip or paint brush to draw a spider web on the outside of the card with white paint. I just free-handed it. Make four lines connecting in one corner of the card, then draw three or four sets of horizontal lines to connect the vertical lines together.

Write your thank-you message inside.

I also helped Tory make Halloween "hello" greeting cards for other family members.

Candy Corn Halloween Card

What You'll Need:
Black, orange, yellow and white construction paper
Halloween stickers
Blank envelope  

Cut and fold a piece of white construction paper to make a card. Be sure it fits inside the blank envelope. Draw a candy corn shape on the outside of the greeting card, then draw two horizontal lines inside the candy corn shape to make three "sections." Tear uneven pieces of black, orange and yellow construction paper into pieces. Then, glue the black, orange and yellow pieces in each section of the candy corn drawing. Write a "Happy Halloween" message inside the card and let the child decorate it with stickers and crayons. Tory enjoyed ripping up all the pieces of construction paper and glueing the paper pieces on one or two cards. Full disclaimer though, I had to finish the rest of them because she lost interest after a while.

Then, I posed Tory in her Halloween costume and included photos in each card for our family members to enjoy. It's basically my own competition to send recent photos to my great-grandma so she can display them in her room at the nursing home. She'll brag about Tory's card and picture for at least three days.

M&Ms Mini Candy Ghosts

What You'll Need:
M&Ms Mini candy
Orange construction paper
Facial tissue
Small rubber hair tie band

I bought M&Ms Mini Halloween treats to give to all the little kids in our in-town family. To make them festive, I covered each M&Ms pack with a facial tissue and a small white rubber band (I use little rubber bands for Tory's hair, so I have a whole pack of colors). Then, I dotted two spots on each one for ghost eyes using a black marker. Finally, I traced a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter on orange construction paper and made name tags for each candy.

This one was just a fun Halloween craft to do together.

Dangling Spider

What You'll Need:
Black construction paper
Pipe cleaners
Googly eyes
Hole punch 
String or yarn

Use an upside down bowl to trace a circle shape onto black construction paper, then cut out shape. Punch three holes on each side of the circle and one hole on top of the circle using a hole punch. Let the child place pipe cleaners in each one of the "side" holes on the black circle. Then, have the child scrunch the pipe cleaners various ways to make "spider legs." Tie a piece of string or yarn in the top hole so the spider can hang from the ceiling, window or light fixture.

Pom Pom Spider

What You'll Need:
Pom Pom
Pipe cleaner
Googly eyes
Hot glue gun

I give all the credit to our weekly babysitter who made adorable Halloween spiders using pipe cleaners, pom pom balls and googly eyes with Tory one morning. She cut a pipe cleaner in thirds for the "spider legs" and hot glued them to a pom pom ball along with googly eyes. Simple and cute.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Preparing to be a Big Sister

If I didn't know better, I'd say Tory has an acute case of Big Sister Nesting in preparation for baby brother's arrival. She's always loved baby dolls, but her affection for them has been in overdrive the last few weeks. Most days, Tory spends her time feeding her babies a pretend bottle (or even sharing her real food lunch with them at the table), wrapping the babies in dish towels (her favorite kind of baby blankets) and putting them to sleep by rocking them, reading them stories and using Baby Aden's real-life bouncy seat and swing.

One evening last week, my mother-in-law Janie was visiting and we played toys with Tory in her play room. Tory insisted we sit in the dark so her baby doll could sleep. She pulled one of her kid-sized chairs over to the doll's bed and read the baby a story book. Then, Tory sat calmly next to her baby's bed and patted its tummy. This went on for ten minutes or so and every time I tried to turn on the light (so were weren't sitting in the dark!), Tory shouted "No, Mommy! Baby sleeping!" Janie turned to me and said, "Look, Heather, she's imitating you. You're such a good mom to Tory" and her comment seriously made my week. I guess I never thought much about Tory imitating what I do with her everyday and how it shapes her view of the way a mommy should care for her baby.

In ECFE toddler class every week, the minute Tory spots one of the babies in the room (little siblings of her classmates), she bee-lines to their car seat carriers and begins to rock them (sometimes a bit too aggressively; thankfully the moms and dads are very patient with her "helping"). At music on Fridays, I all but bribe Tory to leave my friend Lindsey's baby alone in the stroller. Actually, I do bribe her. Lindsey usually lets Tory hold Baby Taylor afterwards if she's followed my instructions to leave the baby alone during class.

Tory has such a nurturing spirit and I think it's fantastic. I'm anxious to see her relationship with Baby Aden unfold (if not a little nervous for the adjustment period of wanting to smoother the baby with kisses and blankets, stuffed animals and whatever else she finds in her toy box). Only a few more weeks until life with a new baby at home begins for this little girl.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Soup Week

Andi's working long hours this week, so I officially declared it "Soup Week" at our house. I love, love, love the warm comfort of soup -- especially as cooler temperatures set in. Most soups are also easy to make and have an "everything but the kitchen sink" forgiveness, so they're great for using up pantry ingredients. I like to make a big batch of soup for dinner and freeze the leftovers in smaller quart-size Ziplocs for fast lunches. Having leftover soups stocked in the freezer will come in handy when Baby Boy arrives in a few weeks and that's exactly why I selected the soups listed below. I've made them all before, I know they're tasty recipes and they freeze great, too. PERFECT.

Tomato Tortellini Soup
I've been a big tomato soup fan since I was a little kid and this fancied-up version hits the spot when I'm craving something more than a can of Campbell's. I've made this tomato tortellini soup recipe a million times. Okay, more like 20 times. I usually leave out the sun-dried tomatoes because I'm not a big fan of them, sometimes I add in a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes or trim back the amount of half-and-half depending on what I have in the fridge. It always tastes delicious, so you can't go wrong making your own adaptations.

Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is my favorite "Mexican" soup recipe. It's got a kick of spice, but nothing too extreme (I'm a sissy when it comes to spicy foods) and any soup with crunched-up tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream on top are big winners in my book. I've found the best way to cook the chicken is to boil it on the stove and add it to the slow-cooker in the last 30 minutes of cook time so the shredded chicken is soft and moist.

Crock-Pot Loaded Baked Potato Soup
This recipe takes a few minutes to prepare due to the sauteing of onions and garlic on the stove-top and peeling and chopping of potatoes (vs. other dump-and-run Crock Pot recipes), but it's worth the effort. Crumbled bacon, sour cream and cheese on top make it a really comforting meal.

Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli Soup
I'm not usually a fan of "meaty" soups and I almost never order this when I'm dining out at OG. (That is, on the rare occasion I get to eat at Olive Garden because my mean husband will never go there with me. Life's hard, isn't it?) That said, this soup is really tasty and different than the soups I usually make. It also uses up all those ditali noodles I buy for Tory and she never eats.

Cheesy Vegetable Soup
This one's pretty straight forward. I considered making this Weight Watchers Vegetable Soup but it's pretty "healthy" and last time I made it, no one really liked it but me. So, add in some cheesy-ness and it seems to please the crowd. This recipe's great with a crusty piece of French bread to wipe the bowl clean.

Monday, October 21, 2013

First Snow this Season

This weekend, Andi, Tory and I made (what will likely be) our last trip to the cabin before Baby #2 arrives. It started as a fairly uneventful weekend - one not even blog post worthy, really - and ended with our parental hearts bursting over Tory's first realization of snowfall. It's so awesome when average, everyday moments turn into extraordinary ones.

So, the boring stuff ... Friday, we made stops during our drive to the cabin to pick up a new dishwasher and re-stock the pantry with grocery necessities. Andi is in full-on nesting mode when it comes to the cabin and every weekend exhibits the readying /or completion of projects he's got in the works there. I'm not even kidding when I say I have no idea what he's up to half the time. This weekend's project: Operation Buy A New Dishwasher. Which means, no more doing dishes when I'd rather be outside in the summertime or burning through gigantic amounts of paper disposables when we have visitors at the cabin, so I can get behind that. Tory didn't have a nap Friday afternoon, so by the time we got settled in at the cabin she was ready for bed. "Night, night," she said, "Turn light off" around 7:30pm so bedtime was a breeze (for once!) and Andi and I hung around the cabin together for the remainder of the evening.

Saturday was pretty chill as well. Our friends Krista and Josh brought their daughter, Hannah, over for a play date Saturday morning. We hung around the cabin and chatted for a few hours. I had high hopes of making one more trip to the apple orchard on Saturday but the weather was dreary and rainiy. After lunch and Tory's nap, the three of us spent the afternoon at Menards returning our just-purchased dishwasher and buying a better quality model. Man, those stores suck hours of your life away. No one felt like cooking after our trip to the Hole of Home Improvement, so we met up with Josh and Krista again at Hilltop Retreat for dinner out. The little girls weren't stoked about sitting nicely at dinner, so it wasn't the most relaxing of double-date nights. Leaving the kids with a babysitter is definitely in order the next time we all go out to dinner again.

Sunday, though ... Sunday was the magical day of the weekend. Andi, Tory and I woke up around 6:30am and watched the sunrise over breakfast at the cabin. We decided to bundle up and walk over to the neighbor's cabin for a visit. The weather was a chilly 32 degrees and a rain / snow mix outside, but nothing was sticking to the ground. Tory was too excited to stomp in the mud puddles along the way in her cute little ladybug galoshes. At Joe and Lisa's cabin, we sat in the garage by the warm wood-burning stove and chatted for a bit. Tory must have been too cozy for her own good because a while later she was fast asleep on my lap. That hasn't happened since she was a baby! While Tory slept, the rest of us continued to talk and at some point, Andi helped Joe pull his pontoon out of the lake for the winter. By the time we left two hours later, it was full-on snowing outside. Puffy, white snowflakes were sticking to the trees and fallen leaves on the ground. We bundled up for our walk back to our cabin and had the best time watching Tory experience snow for the first third time. Technically, it's her third winter experience, but she acted as if she'd never seen big white snowflakes fall from the sky before. Tory squealed with delight as we walked. She bent down and scooped up some freshly fallen white snow in her glove, then licked it and smiled. Watching the season's first snowfall through our daughter's eyes was one of those cloud-nine parenting moments I could just bottle up and keep forever.

I'm dreading the crappy parts of winter (slick roads, cold temps, dreary days) just like everyone else, but I have to admit watching Tory in the snow on Sunday was the highlight of my weekend. I will say over and over that TWO is the best age. Tory is so fun right now with all her talking and excitement about life. It's going to be fun watching her experience winter cabin life for the very first third time this year ... and exciting to bring a new baby boy with us next time for an entirely new cabin life to begin.

Friday, October 18, 2013

DIY Infinity Nursing Scarf

My cousin, Jen, had her second baby in June and when I was visiting this summer, I noticed an awesome infinity nursing scarf she was wearing. I asked my cousin where she got it and she told me her mom bought it on Etsy, but it looked simple enough to DIY. She was right!

I took measurements of Jen's scarf, bought some jersey knit fabric and made one myself for less than $10.

First, I bought a 30"x60" piece of jersey knit fabric, which I scored for 40% off at Jo-Ann Fabric. Their fabrics are almost always on sale, or there's a coupon for a hot deal, so I've learned never to pay full-price.

Second, I laid the fabric flat and then folded it in half to be 30"x30".

My fabulous mother-in-law has a serger sewing machine, so I ran all sides of the fabric once through to make a clean seam on each side. From what I've seen online, I think this step is optional as jersey knit shouldn't fray.

Then, half of one side (about 15" of the total 30", but it doesn't have to be exact) needs to be sewn together to create a hole for your head/neck to fit through. Two sides of the scarf's sides are open / left unsewn and the fourth side is closed when I originally folded the fabric in half. I used a regular sewing machine to close this small section together.

Bottom side of fabric square as shown above: folded over / closed
Left side of fabric: divided in half; the top section is sewn together / bottom section is left open to make scarf's neck hole
Top of fabric: open / not sewn
Right side of fabric: open / not sewn

That's it! How easy it that?

I have a few traditional nursing covers, but I like this one because:
  • it can be worn as a regular infinity scarf, pre-, during, or post-nursing a baby 
  • I'm a scarf-wearer anyway, especially in the wintertime 
  • the material is soft, comfortable and lays nicely
  • it doesn't have a wire loop inside, so the scarf folds small enough to stuff in a diaper bag if youre not wearing it as a scarf
  • the scarf covers the front, side and back of your body, compared to other nursing covers which only cover the front

I'm so excited to use my new infinity nursing scarf when Aden arrives. I think I'll be far more likely to wear this cover-up vs. saying "ah, screw it" like I did last time. When I was nursing Tory, I hated feeling so isolated by going to another room to nurse. Or, when feeding on an airplane, it was so awkward get that big ol' loop around my neck, then trying to keep Tory and myself covered. Nine times out of ten, my side boob would be hanging out in full view no matter how I positioned myself. I'm not a very shy person, so I really had no issue nursing in front of others, but I know people don't always feel the same way. I think my new DIY infinity nursing scarf will work so much better for all parties involved.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Peeping Fall Colors

One of my bucket list items this fall was to spend a day viewing the beauty of leaves changing color around us. Growing up in Nebraska, I remember leaves changing color (I think?), but there aren't seemingly endless blocks of trees like there are in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I can also tell I'm growing older because I find myself truly appreciating the blessings of my surroundings. I just can't get over the wonder of the beautiful green, yellow, orange and red tree colors this fall and the sound of fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet.

Andi had the idea to take a scenic boat cruise along the St. Croix River in Taylors Falls, Minnesota on Saturday. The famous boat tours have recently been closed due to the government shutdown, so this was the first weekend the "Princess" excursion boat was back up and running. We thought it'd be a fun way to see the leaves changing color and the unique rock formations along the river. Tory was up early Saturday morning, so we made an entire morning of our time in Taylors Falls. Priorities first -- we stopped at Rocky River Bakery for donuts. I can't seem to eat enough donuts lately (blame Baby Aden!) and I'm taking full advantage while I'm still pregnant. I keep saying this "4 weeks left to ..." thing to Andi and every time, he looks at me somewhat confused as he's also shoveling donuts or ice cream or cookies in his mouth right along with me. Little Miss Tory enjoyed her Saturday morning chocolate cake donut and fruit punch juice, too.

We walked along the streets of downtown Taylors Falls and stopped by Coffee Talk cafe for coffee. It was a chilly fall morning, so both Andi and I thought warm drinks before our boat ride sounded perfect. Tory requested "toffee, too!" so we gave her an empty cup and a stir stick which she happily pretended to drink from and played with for at least 30 minutes. She charmed everyone strolling by on the street with her bright smile and bouncing pigtails.

At 11:30am, we boarded the boat tour for our trip down the St. Croix River. The boat was bustling with people and we found a spot on the top deck in perfect view of our surroundings. Except, the sun disappeared the moment we set sail and we were all pretty cold perched up on the top deck against the wind. We stayed for a while, then found a table by the window in the enclosed section of the boat below.

Sadly, the color of the leaves wasn't as vivacious along the riverfront as they were in other areas. I'm not sure if it was the type of trees or if they have yet to change this season. The forecast for the area said the leaves were at 75% peak, but it didn't seem like it on the river. It was still something fun and different to do as a family on a Saturday afternoon so we weren't too disappointed.

Tory loved the "big boat ride" as she called it ... and especially loved all the treats Daddy bought for her on the trip. It was a special day for this little two-year-old. Her sugar high by the end proved as much.

Afterwards, we stopped for a quick bite to eat, then drove back to the cabin. Tory stayed awake the entire drive so she was ready for her afternoon nap by the time we arrived. Andi offered to lay down with her and as much as I wanted to join them for a big ol' family nap, I craved some quiet, alone time even more. I cozied up by the fire with a blanket and my computer and blogged for a while. Something tells me these peaceful moments of solitude will be few and far between once Baby Boy arrives next month.

We spent the rest of Saturday evening hanging around the cabin, just the three of us. Andi made a pot roast for dinner and we ate, listened to music and played toys. Tory's been really into "dancing" lately so she and Andi had a dance party in the living room. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Watching Tory mimic Andi's dance moves was hilarious. She tried her best to wiggle her backside, but just couldn't figure out how to get her tush moving in the right direction.

Sunday morning, Tory woke up waaay earlier than normal (4:30am!!) bright-eyed and ready to take on the day. I got up with her and let Andi sleep in, so this mama was tired on Sunday. I did catch this sunrise view over the lake which is one (and perhaps the only!) benefit to having a kid that wakes up so early.

Andi woke up and we had breakfast together. I desperately needed a change in scenery after being up for several hours already, so I suggested we go for a drive through the countryside to check out the changing leaves around the cabin. The fall colors in the cool, early morning were just breathtaking.

After our drive, we came back to the cabin and took Tory and Chloe for a nature walk. Tory was obsessed with finding and collecting rocks, so we made it about half-way down the cabin road in 30 minutes' time (aka: not far). The road is literally made of rocks so there were about fifty-million to choose from which kept us moving at a snail's pace.

We were able to re-direct Tory's attention from rock hunting for a few obligatory fall photos in the leaves. No autumn day at the cabin would be complete without them.

Another great fall family weekend.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day In The Life - Fall 2013

Linking up once again with Navigating The Mothership's Day In The Life series. Details here.

It feels extra special to document this moment in time as it's one of the last few as a family of three. In (+/-) 30 days, our lives will be forever changed (and inevitably more chaotic) with the addition of Baby #2. Plus, it's the first DITL where Tory's fully talking, so I tried to write down some of the funny things she says these days. Here's a peek into our lives on Friday, October 11.

Tory is 2 years and 1 month old
I am 35 weeks pregnant with Baby Aden


12:15am: I wake up to the sound of Tory crying out for me from her bedroom. Tory's been sleeping in her new "big girl bed" for three weeks now and ... transitions are tough. Each night yields 1-3 wake-ups which is just plain annoying considering she's two-years-old and perfectly capable of going back to sleep on her own. I glance at the video monitor sitting on my nightstand table and see she's already crawling down the side of her bed, so I get up to re-direct her back to bed. I tuck her inside the  blankets and take a seat on the corner of her bed to stay with her until she falls back asleep. In the meantime, I sleepily rub my eyes and read a few blog posts on my iPhone. Tory's back to sleep in 10 minutes so I leave her room, then use the restroom before crawling back into bed myself.

12:55am: Tory cries out for "mama" again. Rinse and repeat. I go back to her room and tuck her back into bed. "Rub back, Mom," Tory asks and I do as requested. While I'm sitting on the edge of her bed, I contemplate the next few months and how on Earth I'm going to manage two kiddos awake in the middle of the night. Part of my brain knows I should give Tory some tough love by returning her to bed and walking out until she learns I won't stay with her until she falls asleep ... and the other part of me just wants to soak up the last few nights of semi-restful sleep before I'm up all night with a newborn. With four weeks left until baby, I just don't have the fight in me to tackle sleep-training right now. Following this mid-night deep thoughts on parenting session, I glance at Tory and see she's back to sleep. I exit her room and return to my own bed, half-tempted to get up for a snack since I'm wide awake now.

2:00am: Tory's awake again. Good lord, child. No need to reach over for the video monitor this time because I hear her door handle click open and the pitter patter of little feet on the hardwood floor. I get out of bed again and meet Tory as she's entering into the master bedroom, return her back to her own bed and stay with her again until she falls asleep. This time, she's more awake and shouting demands for "my drink!" and "my monkey!" as I retrieve the various items scattered around her bed. Tory's asleep and I'm back in my own bed at 2:25am. I want to read the Internet on my phone, but force myself to lay quietly in the dark and fall back asleep myself.

6:20am: Andi wakes me up to say he's leaving for work. We briefly discuss our departure plans for the lake cabin this evening and he kisses me good-bye. I close my eyes again.

6:40am: Tory's awake. I hear her door handle open and her little feet running into the master bedroom. She's carrying her pillow, monkey, baby doll and sippy cup in her arms and says "Wake up, Mom. Okay, honey? Turn light on," as she stands by the side of my bed. I pull her into bed with me, turn on the bedside table lamp as requested and roll out of bed (literally, roll out of bed in my giant pregnant body) to use the bathroom again. While I'm up, I get Tory an applesauce packet from the kitchen, then turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the bedroom to buy myself 20 more minutes of laying in bed.

7:00am: Mickey Mouse is over and Tory tells me she needs to potty. I take her to the bathroom and I'm surprised to find her nighttime diaper completely dry. Go, Tory! Our new double stroller is on display in the dining room (Andi must have put it together late last night when he got home from work). Tory plays with the new stroller while I make breakfast. We bought some apple cider donuts at the apple orchard yesterday, so I give Tory and I each one to eat, along with yogurt and oatmeal mixed with peanut butter and banana. We both have orange juice and also have a cup of coffee.

Top: Tory and Baby Boy in the womb
Bottom Left: Can't live without my morning coffee
Bottom Right: Tory taking baby for a ride in the new double stroller 

7:30am: Tory and I sit down at the dining room table to eat. I've been dying to try an apple cider donut this fall to satisfy my latest pregnancy craving. It's ... decent. Perhaps better called a sugar cake donut? I don't really taste any apple flavor. Am I suppose to? I eat my breakfast while checking Instagram and emails on my phone. Tory's too hung up by the donut's sugar dust on her hands to eat much of anything. "My hands! My hands!" she shouts until I get a washcloth to wipe them off for her.

7:45am: Tory announces she has to use the bathroom, then says "fits me" as she climbs onto the step stool and kid's toilet ring. "Watch me? Sit right there," she commands by directing me to sit on the side of the bathtub. Three weeks in, potty training is going really well in our house. Tory's very excited about the toilet ring and step stool for the bathroom I bought her a few days ago.

7:50am: Tory plays with the new double stroller again while I clean up the breakfast mess. "Okay, honey? Ready, set, go!" she says to her baby doll buckled in the front seat of the stroller. She's pushing and pulling baby all through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

8:15am: I do a load of laundry, make Tory's bed, our bed, pick up the kitchen and load/start the dishwasher. My little helper is right beside me, as always. Still crazy to see baby boy clothes as I fold and put laundry away.

Top Left: Laundry Room
Top Right: My little laundry helper
Bottom: Blue (!!) baby boy clothes

8:30am: I usher Tory into my bedroom so I can get ready for the day. I try on fifty-million maternity shirts and finally settle on one that still somewhat fits (I'm getting to that stage in pregnancy where shirts are no longer long enough to cover my belly), then brush my teeth and put on make-up. Tory likes to help me get ready in the mornings, so she climbs up on the master bathroom toilet beside me and reaches for anything/everything on the pedestal sink. "Need brush teeth," she says. "Need eyes, honey," asking me to put eyeshadow and mascara on her face. I pretend to do so and she replies with "thanks."

Tory started using her first term of endearment this week and everything's 'honey' if you haven't noticed. I couldn't figure out where in the world she learned this until I heard myself ask her, "do you have to potty, honey?" Ah, yes. Like mother, like daughter.

8:45am: Next, I get Tory dressed in a gray Gap sweater dress with white leggings. I gather some hair clips and ready her toothbrush with toothpaste while calling for her to come back into my bedroom to finish getting ready. "I know!" she shouts at me from her room. (Already with the back talk, geesh).
9:00am: We load into the car for music class. Before we're even out the drive-way, Tory pinches her finger in her sunglasses and starts to cry. I stop and console her before we're finally on our way. I turn on her Music Together CD to get us warmed up for class. When I start singing along, Tory says, "No, no, Mommy!" Apparently, my singing skills aren't up to snuff.

9:30am: We arrive at music class which is located in a local church basement. I take Tory to use the bathroom before class, then we sing and dance our little hearts out for the next 45 minutes. My friend, Lindsey, and her daughters Ashley and Taylor are in the class with us. Tory's completely obsessed with Baby Taylor (4 months old) and spends half the time climbing on Lindsey's lap to get closer to the baby. In return, Ashley spends her class time crawling on my lap in search of some non-baby love.

10:15am: Lindsey and I chat with a few other mothers in the class while the girls run circles in the church lobby. Ashley and Tory find some churchy books on a shelf and tell us they're "reading books." Soon, they're running up and down the hallway, gazing outside the window and smelling the mums in flower pots as we slowly make our way outside to our cars. We're in route home at 11:00am.

Teenage Toddlers
Tory and her BFF Ashley at music class

11:30am: Back at home, Tory uses the bathroom (no accidents all morning!) and I start to make lunch. Since she didn't eat much for breakfast, I decide to make Tory's favorite meal - grilled cheese and tomato soup - for lunch so she'll get some food in her belly. "Tory help, too!" she says so I pull Tory up on the counter top to help me assemble our meal. I serve up lunch with fresh, local Sweet 16 apples we picked up at the orchard last weekend.

Noon: We're finished with lunch. My big girl devoured 1 1/2 grilled cheese sandwiches and a bowl of tomato soup. I continue to be shocked by the amount of food this teeny girl can put away when she wants to. This is also the messiest meal she eats, by far. I wipe tomato soup off her hands, face and legs, then give in to her request for a "bath" in the sink. While she plays in the bubbles, I clean up the remainder of the lunch dishes.

12:30pm: Tory heads to the living room to play kitchen with her baby dolls and I sit on the sofa next to her to work on one of my Christmas sewing projects. Obviously, it's not the best time to hand-sew with a sharp needle as Tory continuously climbs all over my legs and the couch cushions beside me, so I put the sewing away. I ask Tory several times if she has to potty. "No thanks, Mom" she tells me. Naturally, she poops in her underwear about five minutes later. It's her first bathroom accident all week, darn it.

1:00pm: Time to read a few stories before nap time. I change Tory into a diaper for nap and we crawl into my bed to snuggle up and read together. Lately, the girl's got ants in her pants when it comes to bedtime and it drives me nuts. She wiggles all over the bed and refuses to sit still and listen to books being read to her. I ask her to lay down nicely a gazillion times and finally she jacks me in the face with her foot while she's horsing around. Okay! Storytime's over. I carry her into her bedroom to take a nap. Now, I know naps/bedtime should be the sweetest time for a mother and her child, but I dread them. Fourteen different times a week (plus all the times I put her back in bed during the night), I fight Tory and sleeping. It gets old.

1:30pm: Toss, turn, toss, turn. "Mommy, hot!" (Tory kicks her blankets off). "Mommy, cold!" (I cover her back up). And, repeat. Today, she's asleep by 1:40pm and I breathe a sigh of relief as I exit her room.

1:45pm: I do another load of laundry downstairs and pick up toys in the living room. I should pack for the cabin. I probably should do some meal planning for the weekend. I had good intentions of making an apple crisp to use up some of the apples from the orchard. But, I'm freaking tired. I sit down on the couch in the three-season porch, turn on the TV and relax.

3:15pm: Tory's up from her nap. She climbs out of bed and finds me sitting on the porch. Now I wish I would've taken a nap myself since she slept for 1 hour 45 minutes, which is a fairly long time for her. Tory's a little fussy while she wakes up so we snuggle together on the couch for a while.

3:45pm: Andi texts and says he'll be home from work around 4:30pm. Are we ready to go when he arrives, he asks? Um, no. I haven't packed yet. I pull my behind off the couch and pack clothes and food for the cabin this weekend. It doesn't take me long to ready a bag since I do it nearly every weekend. Andi leaves a set of clothes and toiletries at the cabin to use, but I don't have enough maternity clothes to get by doing that myself and I'd miss too many of Tory's cute clothes and shoes to leave her stuff up there. I toss together a few short and long-sleeve shirts and pants since it's suppose to be colder this weekend, underwear, pajamas, nighttime diapers for Tory and make-up and hair stuff for me. Done.

4:30pm: Andi's home and shortly afterwards, we're out the door for the 1 1/2 hour drive to the cabin. "Tory's cabin?" Tory asks Andi as he loads her into her car seat. "Daddy come, too?" By the time I settle into the front passenger seat, I'm panting and exhausted from scrambling around the house for the last 45 minutes. As we start off down the road, Andi shoots me a look of annoyance when he realizes I have an estimated 15 miles until I'm out of gas in my SUV. Oops, I meant to get gas after music, but forgot. We pass two gas stations as we approach the highway entrance ramp and Andi tells me he's going to try to get as far out of the Cities before stopping to fill up. Now I'm the one rolling my eyes at him.

5:00pm: We stop for gas just outside a northwest suburb. I guess Andi was right, we beat most of the traffic through town. I'm already feeling car sick, as has been the case during most of the pregnancy. I sit stiffly in my seat with the cool air vents blowing in my face and concentrate on not throwing up in the car. Ugh.

5:30pm: We pull off in a small town along the way because Tory says she has to potty. Andi offers to take her inside the gas station while I sit and continue to feel nauseous. Andi says Tory successfully used the bathroom and her pants are still dry. Wahoo! He loads her into the car and we're back on the road.

6:00pm: We stop (again!) at The Old Log Cabin for dinner. I'm feeling guilty for not preparing something for dinner to eat when we arrive tonight, but Andi turns to me and says he could care less. Thank you, husband. Inside the restaurant, we order fried pickles off the appetizer menu. I'm still feeling a little sick to my stomach, but I know these will make me feel better. YUM. Andi orders battered shrimp for his meal, I order a crispy chicken salad and Tory has grilled cheese and fries. This is our first time at The Old Log Cabin and we are big fans. Service was speedy and friendly and our food is all delicious. By the end of dinner, I'm feeling much better with food in my belly and time out of the car for a bit.

Tory and Daddy at dinner

Is there anything better than deep fried pickles?

7:30pm: We (finally!) arrive at our lake cabin. Andi and I unpack the car while Tory runs to the living room and drags out all her toys. She forgot her beloved Minnie Mouse stuffed animal here last weekend, so she's excited to be reunited again. (I catch her giving Minnie a hug and kiss - so cute). It's funny to me how different Andi and I are at the cabin. When he arrives here, he jumps right into cabin projects. Tonight, he immediately starts opening packages he's had shipped here and starts installing a new light fixture in the bathroom. I like to ... sit down and relax, so I do just that.

Has to "help" Daddy ... but hates the loud noise of the drill

8:00pm: It's already 30 minutes past Tory's bedtime, but she's in good spirits playing toys in the living room while Andi moves onto updating the hardware on drawers and cabinets. We're having a nice time talking and listening to country music, so I let Tory stay up a little longer to play. She tries to shut the sliding glass door because it's "too windy," but she can't manage it on her own. "Help me, Daddy," she says, "tough one," as they slide it closed together.

8:30pm: Alright, time for pajamas, books and bedtime. I get Tory ready for bed and read stories to her in her big girl bed at the cabin. We have about five kid's books here and I've read them so many times I could recite them with my eyes closed. Tory can recite them too, and usually does right alongside me.

9:30pm: Tory's finally asleep, so I roll out of her bed and go back upstairs to find Andi watching a television show in the living room. I'm ... pooped. He asks me if I want to watch a show together, but I decline. I just want to go to sleep. So, to bed I go.

11:00pm: I hear Tory cry out "mama, mama" from outside our bedroom door. She's awake and has come all the way up from the mid-level to retrieve me. I sleepily drag myself out of bed (Andi says I grunt - ha!) and return Tory back to her bedroom. I crawl into bed with her and pass out. I'm exhausted and end up sleeping here for the night. I don't hear another thing until "Wake up, Mommy!" at 6:20am Saturday morning.

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