Monday, December 30, 2013

Travel Bug

I've been itching to take a vacation somewhere and Andi finally jumped on board. We just booked a "I hate winter, get me outta here" trip to Cabo San Lucas in March 2014. Andi's got a huge work event planned for February and I know he'll be cracked afterwards. Couple that with a seemingly never-ending winter (it doesn't feel that way now, but I know it will by then) and we'll be ready to get away.

Of course, I won't be able to leave my precious babe at a wee 4 months old, so the kids are coming with us. Sure, traveling with kids changes the nature of vacations, but having them with me 24/7 is no different than what I do on a daily basis. It's just a change of scenery. My life is already accustomed to kids' meals, car seats and sleep schedules. In this instance, I'm adding sandy beaches which, WIN. We invited Andi's mom to come along too, so we'll get a few chances to break away and enjoy each other's company.

Andi is usually all about travel, but now that we have the cabin he says he'd rather take the kids there to get away than go through all the expense and commotion of traveling to a new destination. I get that ... but I also love the excitement of seeing somewhere new in the world, having someone else make my meals (homemade guacamole and Corona's sound delicious) and all the adventure that goes into travel. Sometimes, the cabin feels like a second home to me (in a good and bad way), so I'm anxious to go on a real vacation in the truest sense of the word.

Neither Andi or I have ever been to Cabo before, so it'll be a new place to check off the list. Plus, it'll be Tory and Aden's first time leaving the U.S. Gotta work on getting those passports for the kids. On the third attempt, we finally got Tory's passport picture at Wal-greens the other day, so the rest of the application process should be easy now.

Isn't half the fun of a trip the planning and anticipation anyway? This vacation gives us something to look forward to as we suffer through make the best of the cold Minnesota winter. Definitely looking forward to a view like this in 60 more days:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflection on Christmas 2013

We had a great Christmas in Nebraska this year. Tory, Aden and I flew in early on Wednesday, December 18 and Andi arrived the following Saturday. This was the smoothest visit home we've had since Tory was born. She finally seemed mature enough to adjust to varied schedules and being around people she's not used to seeing often. Aden was an angel, of course. I don't think he cared (or knew!) where he was so long as the milk machine kept on rolling.

I loved being home the extra days leading up to Christmas because my time home didn't feel so rushed. A week in Nebraska would have been way too long for Andi so it worked out perfectly for him to meet us later. Thursday and Friday, I spent with my dad at home. We babysat my niece, Neeley, during the day and attended my other niece, Brooke's, holiday programs in the evening. Thursday was her Christmas program at church and OMG, so cute. Loved kicking off the holidays with little kids shouting carols at the top of their lungs.

Andi arrived Saturday and we spent a chill weekend hanging out at my parents' house with my sister and her family.

Baking treats with Nana

Brookie (Age 6)

Jason and Neeley (Age 16 months)
Daddy / daughter resemblance? I'd say so.

Baby Aden

Neeley and Nana


Neeley and Aden

Monday, my sister and I met up with my cousins Jen and Jes for a day at the Lincoln Children's Museum. With seven kids between us under the age of six, we wanted do attend a fun Christmas event together but we couldn't find much that fit our schedules. The museum worked perfectly and luck for us, there were hardly any people there. Tory had a blast playing all morning and we finished our day with lunch at Raising Canes. It was chaotic but really fun.

Ashley, Jes and Baby Finleigh (4 months)

Most of the cousins (minus Aden and Finleigh)
L to R: Reese (6 months), Lauren (3 years), Tory (2 years),  Neeley (16 months), Brooke (6 years)

Tuesday on Christmas Eve Day, we celebrated my immediate family's Christmas. This was our first year opening gifts during the day. Our tradition used to be to open gifts late Christmas Eve and sleep in Christmas morning, but now with little kids it's hard to do that. My mom made a nice brunch for all of us and then we opened gifts in the afternoon. I'm still not convinced this is the best time to celebrate since it felt a bit rushed doing our Christmas, then getting ready for and attending church that evening.

We gave Brooke a Razor scooter - she loved it.

Tory and Neeley opening gifts

My brother Adam and his girlfriend Carley

Brookie and her official cheerleader pom-poms

Drinking wine ... holding the babe

Pure chaos

Andi and Aden

Mid-present opening shots

Pink cowboy boots for Brookie!

After church, we celebrated Christmas Eve night with my mom's side of the family. This year was so fun with all the babies and little kids. Tory was much more herself than past years and spent most the evening running around the house playing with her cousins. A far cry from last year when she was practically glued to my leg. Gotta love the age when you don't have to parent every single minute of the party.

Family of four!

Great-Grandma Lohse and Baby Aden

Seven cousins!
L to R: Aden, Finleigh, Reese, Neeley, Tory, Lauren, and Brooke

Tired Neeley hiding amongst the presents

Cheri, Reese and Tory

Having a baby in the winter has its advantages, but squeezing into a dress 5 weeks post partum isn't one of them. This was the first Christmas in my 32 years on Earth where I didn't wear a dress on Christmas Eve. I felt a little like I was going to a business meeting and not at all festive. Therefore, not a big fan of our family Christmas pics this year, but at least we scored one where everyone's looking at the camera. 

As I talked about here, Santa didn't make a stop by my parent's house on Christmas morning. Both Tory and Aden  were too young to care / notice this year so Christmas morning was fairly uneventful. My mom filled Tory and Aden's stockings with treats so they opened those by the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Day, my parents hosted my dad's side of the family for soup and sandwiches. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon. Guess we didn't take any photos of the day. My photographer napped most of the afternoon with Tory.

Andi, Tory, Aden and I flew home early Thursday morning, then Andi immediately flew to California for work this week. Both kids were excellent travelers again. As much fun as we had in Nebraska, it feels really good to be home again. Once Andi returns from his work trip, we're headed to the lake cabin to ring in 2014. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Letters to Aden: One Month

My darling baby boy,

It's hard to believe you've been in our lives for over four weeks now. Like all wonderful things, it feels as if you were born yesterday - though the days leading up to your birth took forever and ever and ever - and yet, simultaneously, it's hard to remember a time you weren't a part of our family. You bring me so much joy. It felt impossible to love another person as much as I love my first born child and then you come along and open my heart so completely. I'm bursting with adoration for you.

You are such an easy baby, Aden. Oh my goodness am I thankful for your peaceful nature each and every day. Honestly, I think part of it is your personality and also that I'm much more confident in my parenting skills the second time around. I threw a holiday party for friends just three weeks after you were born and you happily slept on me in the baby carrier while I cooked, cleaned and prepared for it. It took months of practice before I mastered multi-tasking when your sister was small. You love your swing and are content to lay quietly and chill or often fall asleep on your own in there. I'm still amazed every time you let me put you down to complete basic tasks like showering and eating. You're just so happy and content all the time! I love it. 

Guess what? You also love your car seat! Having a baby who is able to go places is pure heaven. Oh, my. I will never take this luxury for granted. 

Hence, you've been quite a few places in your short life. You made your first trip to our Wisconsin lake cabin at two weeks old and took your first airline flight to Nebraska at three weeks. You did fabulously on each trip, sleeping through most of our travels. We've also taken you to a Christmas concert, to church and to see Santa Claus this month. You're a busy little boy.

You're a "binkey baby" and this is also something so different to me. Pop that pacifier in your mouth and you are Good. To. Go. I'm sure I'll be cursing myself someday when I have to break you of the habit, but for now it is awesome to console you so easily. 

You also spit up quite a bit which is a new issue I've learned to manage. I can't remember Tory ever spitting up and you can be quite projectile. Acid reflux, maybe? Luckily, you don't seem to be uncomfortable, just spitty, so I've learned to keep you upright as much as possible. Word on the street is your daddy was the same was as a baby. I guess you inherited the trait from him. 

Speaking of traits, if you aren't your daddy through and through. Everyone comments on your resemblance to him. You have his ears and mouth/chin for sure. Your hair is a light brown color and sometimes almost strawberry-blond, which is definitely from his Swedish heritage. I think you have Nana Candy's eyes and nose, but it's too soon to tell. At times, you look just like Tory and she now looks a lot like Nana / my side of the family so maybe you do have some of my characteristics after all. In any event, I think you are the most beautiful boy I've ever laid eyes on.

No nickname for you yet which strangely bugs me inside. Tory was coined "Tory Bean" almost immediately and for some reason, no nickname I hear sounds right for you. Nana calls you "little bear" but to me you're just my "little man." It's funny the way Tory picks up on my conversations with you and calls you little man as well. Maybe the person you become will give way to a family nickname you'll lovingly be called.

Some details about your physical growth and development: you are a very long baby, measuring 21 1/2 inches at birth. You wore newborn-size clothing for about two weeks and quickly outgrew them in length. You're now wearing 0-3 months clothes, but even a few of those (especially sleepers and onesies with snaps between the legs) are becoming tight in length on you. You seem to be packing on the pounds and it makes my heart skip a beat as I watch your skinny little chicken legs plump into rolly polly ones. You weighed 7 lbs 11oz at birth and dipped down to 7 lbs 0oz in the days after, but are now weighing in at 11 lbs based on my at-home measurements. You're wearing Size 1 diapers now, but I have a feeling it won't be for long. I can't believe how fast you're growing! Right before my very eyes, little boy. 

I'm nursing you almost exclusively and estimate you drink about 2-3oz. every 2-3 hours. There was a stretch in your early days when the pediatrician requested we offer you formula after a nursing session to make sure you were gaining weight. Although I didn't completely agree with the recommendation, we did as asked and you seemed to handle formula and drinking from a bottle perfectly fine. You're going to sleep for the night around 9pm and wake to eat around Midnight, 3am and 6am. You're not on a strict schedule of any kind, although I do notice a pattern developing in your rest time and feedings. You seem to take a longer nap in the mornings from 7am - 9am and in the afternoons from 1pm - 3pm. You don't really have a "fussy time" like some babies do in the evenings. Some nights, you seem a little restless from 8pm - 9pm, but it's nothing a good snuggle can't cure.

I know your babyhood will fly by incredibly fast (it already is!) so I'm trying to drink you in as much as I can right now. You are, and always will be, my sweet baby boy. I love you with all my heart. 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Gifts 2013

With a November baby, I was way on top of my shopping game this year and bought my Christmas gifts early. Way early ... as in, August / September of this year. The extra planning time gave me an edge, I think. I was more thoughtful with gifts and less panicked to purchase something.

Gifts were fun to buy for Tory and Aden this year. I didn't go crazy because I knew they'd be getting so many presents from family. Because we celebrated Christmas Eve/Day in Nebraska this year, I opted not to give them Santa presents. Tory didn't seem to grasp the concept of "Santa Claus" this year ... and Aden surely didn't at 5 weeks old. Plus, it seemed silly to buy presents, ship them to Nebraska, only to haul them all back home again on the airplane. I don't think Tory even realized Santa "missed" Nana and Papa's house until one of my girlfriends asked her if Santa came and Tory responded "not yet!"

I did want to give Tory and Aden a few gifts from Andi and I, so I went with the "want, need, wear, read" theme to keep my buying in check. This year, our kids received:

Tory (Age 2)

Aden (5 weeks old)

I got pretty creative with Andi's gifts. He is SO HARD to buy for and I really struggle coming up with gifts I know he'll enjoy. For Christmas, I had a hard-cover book made of every blog post I've written about the lake cabin. There turned out to be 80 or so entries detailing our summer lake adventures, time with friends, snowmobiling, and Tory's entire experiences there. It's pretty neat. I also gifted him one of those push pin travel maps to display on the wall at the cabin. We've got some big travel plans in sight, so it'll be fun to fill that bad boy up with places we've been, vacations planned and dream destinations.

For all the little boys in our lives, I made superhero capes. There are lots of little boys on Andi's side of the family and I have a few girlfriends with little boys, too. It was fun to give them each a little something without breaking the bank to buy gifts for each one. I also made a pink superhero cape for my cousin's little girl, Lauren, and for Tory as well. Tory runs around the house shouting "Super Tory!" so I hope the little kids enjoy their present as much as she does.

I also made hair clip holders for the littlest girl cousins and friends' girls. For these, I bought a pack of wooden letters, "D" shaped metal rings and a roll of ribbon from the craft store. I painted the first letter of each girl's name white and hot-glued it to the bottom of the ribbon. I glued the metal ring to the top and voila! I would've never had time to make all these presents had I not started so many months ago.

We still have one more Christmas celebration with Andi's family in early January. Thus far, our family has received some great gifts from our Christmas in Nebraska. My parents gave Tory a secret garden playhouse that we'll put together once the weather warms up this spring. She was also given tons of Minnie Mouse toys, clothes and a few other things. Aden scored boat-loads of clothes. To think I was worried about having enough things for him to wear a few weeks ago! Re-organizing his dresser drawers and closet shelves is in order this week after receiving so many adorable outfits. Feeling very blessed this year for all that we have and for those with whom we've celebrated the holidays. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

This and That

This last week has been a busy one with little time left to blog. Sadly, my trusty laptop has been collecting dust on the bedside table and I find myself reading and even writing posts from my iPhone these days. I feel like I'm adjusting well to life with two kids, but it leaves me exactly zero time for myself. Forget leisurely computer time. Eating, showering and sleeping pull rank. 

Last week, Andi traveled for work and while I survived solo parenting just fine, I have never been so happy to have Andi return home from a trip. The first day and a half were going well until Tory got a random case of the pukes on Tuesday night about 10:30pm. I started to sweat bullets that a) I had to care for a sick child all night while nursing another one every 2-3 hours and b) that we were all going to catch whatever she had. Thankfully, after throwing up half the night, she woke up Wednesday feeling better. Then I felt like garbage with the on-set of a sinus cold. I pounded Zicam and hot tea with lemon like nobody's business and slogged through the day. My SIL, Lindsay, stopped by part of Wednesday so at least that helped get me through with an extra pair of hands. Last week, in general, made me realize how awesome Andi and I have band together as a team since Aden's birth. My husband has been such a big help with the kids and around the house lately. I'm so proud of us for coming together during what can be a challenging time in a relationship. It makes me love that man a million times more.

Last Thursday, I busted my bum in the morning to pack overnight bags and get the kids out the door to pick Andi up from the airport. Our new morning routine takes me three hours to accomplish (dress and feed Tory, nurse Aden, get myself dressed, car loaded, etc.) which is just insane. THREE HOURS! By the time I'm pulling out of the drive-way, I'm exhausted from the shuffle. Anyway, we picked Andi up at the airport and drove straight to the cabin to celebrate Andi's birthday. We spent the rest of Thursday and Friday doing nothing basically, just running errands around town, going for rides and hanging out together. I'd planned for us to drive around and look at Christmas lights as part of our advent calendar activities and somehow we didn't even accomplish that. Whatever. It felt good just to be a family again. 

We we're suppose to celebrate Andi's family Christmas on Sunday in the Cities, but we rescheduled because Andi's mom felt under the weather. So, Andi's sister and her boyfriend, Kyle, came over anyway and we had a "fake Christmas" where we ate all the yummy food we'd bought for the real celebration. If nothing else, it was an excuse to day-drink and lazily sit around the house all day. Well do the real thing after the first of the year. 

Tory, Aden and I flew to Nebraska on Wednesday for Christmas with my side of the family. For some reason it was cheaper for us to fly in early and Andi to meet us here later this weekend. I was super nervous for the flight because it was Tory's first time flying with her own seat/ticket (couldn't fathom my wiggly girl sitting for an hour) and my first time flying solo with two kids (Aden's first flight). Honestly, our travels went so smoothly. I brought the umbrella stroller for Tory and wore Aden in the Baby Bjorn. Andi dropped us off at the airport and I checked our bags at sky-cap so I didn't have far to lug them. I did have to check car seats inside, but some nice lady demanded I go ahead of her in the Sky Priority lane. Countless people asked if they could assist me and the kids were each given a set of wings from a nice Delta flight attendant. People can be so gracious. Tory was an angel the entire journey. All those flights in her first two years of life really paid off. Aden was easy-peasy, as always. 

For anyone preparing for air travel with kids, I highly recommend the children's book Amazing Airplanes. It's one of Tory's favorite books and during our travels she repeated many of the book's sayings like "you have to put your seatbelt on before the plane can go." I think it really helped her to know what to expect. 

I'm always nervous how Tory will do in Nebraska during our stays here, but so far so good. Her lack of routine/adequate sleep is the wild card, so we'll see how the rest of the week plays out when the holiday activities and family get-togethers kick into high gear. 

My baby boy turned one month old while we've been down here. Four weeks! How is that even possible?

Aden's week by week pictures - week 4

I have some notes typed up on my phone about his first month of life, but haven't had a chance to throw them into a blog post yet. So is the life of the second born. Sigh. I'll get there, Aden. 

I've got some words floating around in my head about our cabin updates, too. We've made some big changes there. More to come....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Letters to Tory: 2 1/4 Years

Tory Bean,

It's been almost three months since I last wrote to you. You've grown in so many ways since your second birthday and experienced many big changes in your little life since then, so I wanted to take a few minutes to document what's new with my favorite little girl (that's you!).

You've grown quite a bit since your last doctor's appointment at 24 months old. You continue to be on the petite little thing, weighing about 25 pounds (up a pound since your last check-up) and now measure 34 inches (which is up 2 inches!). I could tell you were growing taller as many of your 18 Months and 2T pants are too short or now just the right length. Your hair is growing long and now reaches down to your shoulder blades. Your beautiful baby curls are still there, but they're turning into more waves now. I suspect they'll eventually give way to straight hair eventually. Overall, you looking more like a little girl (and less like a baby) every day.

One area you've grown leaps and bounds is speech development. It seriously amazes me listening to you communicate with us. You're speaking in full sentences and conversations now (broken toddler sentences minus the proper use of pronouns and prepositions, of course). I think this is Daddy's favorite stage because you'll repeat any phrase he tells you to say. We have quite the laughs at your expense - sorry kid. I'm in awe of the things you associate and remember to tell us later. You speak fairly clearly for a child your age. The only time it's a little difficult to understand what you're trying to say is when you get too excited about something or try to string together several sentences or a story together.

Some of the things I want to remember are the way you apologize for everything -- even when things aren't your fault. "Oh, I sorry!" you'll say. I guess you're a true Midwesterner! You also say "Mommy, need hug," very sad face-ish, when you're upset or looking for attention. A big squeeze can usually cure the worst case of grumbles. You want to do everything yourself and scream "Nooo! Tory do it!", "Tory choose!" or "Tory help, too!" in regards to all things including making breakfast, picking out a sippy cup and loading yourself into the car seat. "Phew! Tough one!" sometimes follows on particularly difficult tasks. You call everyone "honey" as in, "Hi Baby Aden, hi honey, hi Baby Aden, hi, hi" (which is exactly the way you greet your brother). And, one of my personal favorites -- the way you cutely suggest "store?" in response to anything you can't or don't have. If we're out of yogurt, for example, you'll suggestively ask "store?" You're apparently growing up in a world where everything is simply a purchase away. (No surprise given your father's buying habits on Ahem).

You have an excellent memory just like your mama. You don't forget a thing, especially if we tell you we're going somewhere fun or you've had a good experience doing something of the like. Many times, I find myself not sharing fun details like grandparents visits with you until right before they happen because you'll ask about it over and over again. You can't quite understand the concept of time, so saying something like, "No, tomorrow we're going on an airplane" means nothing and you'll ask about it all over again 10 minutes later.

I'm happy to report we're moving in the right direction in this category. (Either that, or you've finally worn us down to the point where one nightly wake-up is deemed a success). We transitioned you to a big girl twin-size bed in September in preparation for Aden's birth and his use of the baby crib. The first two months were rough-going; you hopped out of bed just as quickly as we laid you in there and I spent many (many, many, many) hours of the night perched on the side of your bed. Surprisingly when Aden was born, Daddy began putting you to bed and you started sleeping (mostly) through the night. Four months after the big girl bed transition and you usually wake up once or twice a night, but fall back asleep quickly if we rush in to soothe you right away. If we could just teach you how to roll over and go back to sleep when you wake up vs. shrieking for baby dolls and sippy cups, we'd be set. Tory, you've always been a light (and somewhat, crappy) sleeper and I think we've finally come to terms with it. I'm still holding out hope you're love to sleep ... someday.

It's been a few months of big milestones for you. Shortly after your second birthday, you declared your desire to be potty trained and took to the concept almost immediately. I wasn't so hot on the idea of toilet training you right before Aden's birth, but I let you lead the way and you did fantastically. Sadly, I'd like to say you have the same gusto for using the big girl potty these days, but that's for another post.

You became a big sister since I wrote to you last, and you absolutely love your baby brother. You're a very good helper and always willing to run and get diapers or burp cloths to help Mama. You love to hold Aden and are surprisingly gentle when doing so. You're still learning how to touch him softly (vs. poking him in the eyes or squeezing his hand until it turns colors), but we're working on it and you're getting there with time. I love the way you repeat phrases I say to him such as, "Hold on, Baby Aden" and "Have a good rest, Baby Aden?" The other day you told him, "Tory won't hurt you" though I suspect he wasn't so sure. I can't wait to witness the sibling relationship unfold between you two. Soon enough, he'll be old enough to play around and pester love on you just as much as you love on him.

You're still very interested in baby dolls and playing "Mommy." We gave you a play diaper bag, complete with baby wipes, diapers and bibs, for your Big Sister gift at Aden's birth and you play with it daily. You also enjoy playing kitchen with pretend food and you love, love, love Minnie Mouse. Soon after your second birthday, you developed an interest in playing dress-up and can be seen bopping around the house in tu-tus and ballerina costumes most days. You like to watch Dora the Explorer episodes and play doctor just like Doc McStuffins on Disney Jr.

You're one busy girl in the activities department. This fall, we enrolled you in your first "school" experience at a Early Child and Family Education toddler preschool class within the school district. It was a tough transition for you for the first several weeks. You did not like to be separated for me in the least bit and cried to and during school most days. Finally, something clicked and you really started to enjoy the class. Now you happily bounce into the classroom, play with your friends and the many toys in the room. It's so good to see you grow and transition in this way. I knew we made the right decision by signing you up for the program when we did.

You also attend music class once a week with several friends of ours and you absolutely love it. It's 45 minutes of singing and dancing around, and you talk about it all week long. I have to be honest, I love it, too. It's so fun to see you so engaged and energetic in a social setting.

Still the same favorites here -- toast, yogurt, cheese, sandwiches and applesauce. In the last few months, you've developed a new taste for meats and will usually eat several good bites of chicken or pork. Fruit can be hit or miss with you, with some of your "favorites" being bananas and blueberries. Your obsession with dips is still strong -- you're a girl who loves sour cream, Ranch and ketchup -- and now we can add butter, peanut butter and jelly to that list. "Put on my finger!" you shout anytime one of those three condiments is in eye sight.

You're starting to become very interested in your "friends" and will ask about them often. Some of your favorite people are Ashley from music class and Hannah from the lake cabin. You love "Call" (McCall) from the cabin as well and ask to see her the minute we arrive there each weekend. McCall's a freshman in college, by the way, but she's always so good to play with you while we're socializing with her parents.

Nana and Papa came up to stay with us for a week after Aden's birth and you had a blast spending quality time with them. One of your favorite people in the world is Grandma Janie and you just light up when you see her.

You are definitely loved by many and it's fun to hear you refer to our loved ones in conversation now, or get as excited to spend time with them as we are.

Tory, you're such a delight to be around. There's never a dull moment with you in the mix, that's for sure, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We love you to pieces.