Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dear Zoo

Tory's so cute at bedtime these days (well, aside for the part where she fights us to actually go to sleep). She reads her own stories by heart, including one book called Dear Zoo.

The story goes, "I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet. They sent me a ..."

I'll let Tory tell the rest. :)

I'm dying over this little video!

(...and if you can't understand Tory-speak, I'll translate ..."Snake. He was too scary, so I sent him back." The proud Mama Bear in me always thinks Tory speaks so clearly, but then I send off her videos to family and they're all, like, what?)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meals Lately

It's been a while since I shared some of my "big wins" in the kitchen. Believe it or not, having a newborn hasn't slowed down my cooking game. I've incorporated some easy recipes into the mix (hello make-ahead freezer meals ... thank you pregnant and uber-nesting Heather!), but I've also been cooking a fair amount. Not that I'm whipping up delicate souffl├ęs or anything... just easy 30 minute meals for average weekday dinners. (This is the part where I pat myself on the back because go, me! It's not always easy cooking dinner with a toddler underfoot and a baby in my arms. Though I have to say, a glass of wine helps).

Here's some of my favorite recipes as of late (whoops, I almost typed a three-letter curse word in place of "as;" which reminds me of a time in the fourth grade when I made the same mistake with "Ash Hollow" on a class project. Everyone laughed as my beautiful picture hung on the window wall, and I'm still embarrassed about it to this day).

Anywho ...

Crusted Honey Mustard Chicken 
This recipe was a big, big hit with Andi and I. The ingredients are simple and it's actually a Weight Watchers recipe so I felt even better about cooking / eating it. As everyone in the world knows by now, Andi has a weird likeness for "crunchy" foods and this one exceeded his expectations. The chicken was crunchy and the honey mustard dipping sauce was delicious.

Smothered Beef Burritos
I am seriously obsessed with this recipe. I've made it a few times now. Throw some beef stew meat into the slow cooker with some enchilada sauce, then roll up the shredded meat into tortillas with cheese and refried beans. EASY. Plus, leftover burritos freeze well for future lunches. I've been wrapping them up in foil and they peel right out.

Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Another Weight Watchers recipe. I'm not officially following the WW program, but I have been making quite a few of their recipes with the intention of eating healthier. I saw the recipe for these Turkey Lettuce Wraps while watching The Chew one day and I thought to myself, "hey, those look pretty easy to make." I liked this recipe a lot, and the only reason I down-graded my score by a + is because I have a weird thing about eating ground turkey. I think it's a texture thing for me, but I keep cooking with it anyway because it's healthier than ground beef. Anyway, these were really tasty and simple to make. Tory and I ate the leftovers the next day in quesadilla form.

Cedar Plank Salmon
I'm not usually a big fan of seafood, but this cedar plank salmon recipe was delicious. Andi soaked a cedar plank in water for a few hours and grilled the fish one weekend night at the cabin. Not only did having something grilled in the heart of winter taste delightful, but the salmon had great flavor and wasn't at all fishy. We joked our cedar-planked dinner would taste like our sauna at the cabin smells, but it didn't (thankfully).

Of course we've eaten plenty of other things, but these were the real winners.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CERP: Letter of the Week Activities (Letter A)

Tory's been showing interest in learning letters of the alphabet. This coming from the girl who shouts "no, Mommy, no, no!" every time I sing the ABC's. I wasn't sure if she had something against the alphabet or my singing (ha!), so I'm glad to see her wheels turning.

So far, Tory can recognize the letters in her name (T-O-R-Y) and can draw the letter "O." I thought it might be fun to spend a little time each week talking about the alphabet while it peaks her interest, so I surfed the internet and put together a loose set of "lesson plans" for us to do together. I'm not trying to pressure her into any structured learning; she has many years of school ahead and she's still young, I realize. It's okay for a 2 1/2 year old not to know her alphabet. The lesson plan is more for me actually, to serve as a reminder to be more intentional in parenting when we're engaged in things we'd normally be doing. Anyway, I thought it'd be fun to share my format here, if for no other reason than it took me two nap times to pull this all together. (That's valuable Mama time!)

For each letter of the week, I'm following a format of Craft, Eat, Read, Play (I'll call it CERP, for short). Like I said, these are activities we do together during the week anyway, so it gives me fresh ideas and ways to talk about the alphabet while we do so. I used resources No Time for Flash Cards and for most of my material ideas. Some activities and the CERP format itself I developed on my own.

Oh, and I'm probably the last person on Earth to figure this out, but I discovered a fantastic online request system through our local library. Clearly, I failed to learn the Dewey Decimal system in school because every time I go to the library I have such a difficult time finding specific books I want to read. When I was pregnant with Aden, for example, I wanted to check out a book about Big Sisters for Tory and the librarians were basically useless in helping me locate such books within their system. Since I discovered this online reservation / request system, it's super easy. I simply type in the name of a book I'm looking for, the library locates the book for me, calls when it's available for check-out and leaves it on a shelf for me to pick up. I don't even have to talk to anyone! Tory and I have already discovered some fun, new books to work into our reading time.

So, first up ...

Letter of the Week: "A"

Craft: Make an "A" alligator (source)
This was a fun little craft and easy enough for Tory to do most of the work by herself. I cut out the letter and we briefly talked about what sounds the letter "A" makes, then she transformed the letter into an alligator with a little prompting help from me. These crafts will be a big hit, I think, because now she points to every animal we see in a book and says in her cute little voice, "We tan make dat."

Eat: Have animal crackers for a snack

Read: Sleepy Little Alphabet, Amazing Airplanes and Alligator Alphabet books
Amazing Airplanes is one of Tory's favorite books, so it was a no-brainer to pull it out of the closet and read it a few times. I picked up Sleepy Little Alphabet and Alligator Alphabet from the library and they were both very cute reads which covered all letters of the alphabet. I'd recommend all three of these books.

Play: Visit the SeaLife aquarium at Mall of America
I'd planned this activity for Tory and I's date day together last Thursday, but Mother Nature decided to dump a boat-load of snow on the Twin Cities and cease all travel in the area. Guess we'll save this fun activity for another day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Must-Have Baby Gear, Round Two

The good thing about having Baby #2 (or #3, #4, etc. ) is the feeling of preparedness. All you really need for Baby is clothes, diapers and milk. The rest is just icing on the cake.

In the days leading up to Aden's birth and in the months after, I wasn't too worried about reusing all the pink stuff we accumulated with Tory. The little mister is using his sister's pick bathtub, sporting some of her pink and purple blankets and even wearing a few of her old PJ's sometimes. I think he's secure enough in his masculinity to take it. Ha!

But, there has been a handful of things we picked up for Baby #2 that made our lives just a little bit easier. Here's my (second time around) favorite baby things:

Tiny Love 3 in 1 Rocker Napper

When Andi purchased this bassinet for Baby Aden a few weeks before he was born, I rolled my eyes (secretly, not to his face, of course). I didn't think it was really necessary; couldn't Aden just sleep in the pack-n-play we already owned on cabin weekends? Yes, of course Aden could have ... but I have to admit, this bassinet was one of my favorite baby things. We used it mostly for naps and nighttime sleeping next to our bed, though I suppose you could use it for hanging out. The legs on the bottom of the bassinet can be flipped up or down to allow for a "steady" or "rocking" motion, so I flipped one up and one down to create a lift on one side. Since Aden spit up so much, this really gave me piece of mind having him sleep at an elevated angle.

Oh my goodness, this swing has been a lifesaver with Aden. It's very possibly he's just a good-natured baby, but Aden loving this swing has saved my sanity so much. I was a little apprehensive to invest in another piece of baby equipment with the second baby (and luckily we didn't have to since Andi's parents gifted it to us when Aden was born), but it was worth it. I love this swing because it's so cozy and lays flatter than others I've seen. The number of naps Aden clocks in this thing are numerous. Best baby gear purchase EVER.

Breathable Mesh Crib Bumper

I'm in the "play it safe / not a fan of the crib bumper" category of mothers, but I've also never had a baby who used a pacifier until Aden. One little nuisance I never saw coming is the task of searching for pacifiers lost in the crib during the night. Good lord, what a pain! The other day, I moved Aden's crib away from the wall to find four pacifiers underneath there. No wonder I can't find them in the night -- they're falling through the rails! So, I purchased a breathable crib bumper to keep those little guys safely secured within the walls of the crib.

Uniden Wireless Video Surveillance Portable Security System
aka: our baby monitor

I'm one of those parents who just can't sleep unless I've got a view of what's going on in my little kiddo's bedrooms. I'd be peaking in the door a million times throughout the night if it wasn't for this baby monitor. Actually, I don't think it really is classified as a "baby monitor," but let me tell you ... it does a great job as one. My favorite feature of this video surveillance system is that you can switch to up to four different cameras using the same picture receiver. I can even set it as split screen view if I want to see both kids' rooms at the same time. It's the best.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Good Neighbors

I'm feeling very thankful for the generosity of others this morning. Andi's traveling (well, technically, he's working 24/7 in St. Paul producing a downhill ice cross event) so I've been on my own with the kids since Sunday. We've actually had a pretty decent week on our own. I scheduled plenty of play dates and we have Tory's usual line-up of activities to keep busy. I've let Tory sleep with me when she wakes up in the night (which, I'm sure I'll pay dearly for next week when I force her to stay in her own bed). Aden's been up a lot in the night this week, but I think he's going through a growth spurt or something because he's been hungry nonstop. I'm comfortable in our house and we have a security system, so I feel pretty safe here on my own.

Tuesday night, I was awake feeding the baby around 2:30am and happened to check my phone. There was a missed call and voicemail from our across-the-street neighbor as well as a text message from her letting me know my garage door was open. I jumped out of bed and shut it immediately, but I couldn't shake the feeling that a stranger was in my house. Thinking back, Tory slipped on a patch of ice in the garage after we came home from preschool and I must have been pre-occupied enough unloading the kids that I never shut the garage door. Ugh. I hate when things like that happen. As startled as I was in the middle of the night, I'm very thankful for my neighbor who thought to alert me. Of course nothing bad happened, but it could have so it's nice to have people looking out.

Then, Mother Nature dumped 10 inches of snow on the Twin Cities Thursday after a warm-up in temperatures earlier in the week. That basically caused the perfect storm of ice and snow on the roads. I wasn't too stressed about the weather because we didn't have anywhere we had to be this week. There is Tory's activities, of course, but worse case scenario we'd skip them and stay home if the weather was too terrible to be outdoors.

Again, my same sweet neighbor sent me a text message Thursday afternoon and asked if there were any groceries or errands she could run for me before we were all snowed inside on Thursday night. I had plenty of groceries in the house, but it was so nice of her to offer. I mentioned Andi was working, so she also volunteered to have her husband snowplow our drive-way. We hire a service to shovel for us, so I politely declined her offer.

Of course, this happens: our always-prompt snowplow driver never showed up on Friday. My car was snowed into the garage, so even if I had somewhere to be I wouldn't have been able to leave the house. I do have snow tires on my SUV so I guess I could've attempted to make it out of the drive-way, but since Andi's working I would have been screwed if I got stuck. Also, the city snowplow trucks created a huge snow ridge at the end of our drive-way. Digging my buried trash cans out and lugging them back up to the house was trouble enough.

Finally last night, Andi forwarded an email from our hired plow driver saying his truck broke down and he didn't know when he'd be able to make it over to our house. Obviously shoveling the drive-way myself was out of the question since a) it was 10 inches of wet, heavy snow and b) I have two little kids who I can't leave in the house alone. Andi offered to source another plow driver, but I know he's busy running a giant event right now. He probably has fifty-million other fires he's putting out (not to mention the huge job of plowing and trucking all of that snow from the event site). I told Andi there was no rush. Tory and I have been keeping busy baking in the kitchen and making boatloads of crafts. My house is a mess, but we're surviving the down-time. It is a bit of a debilitating feeling not being able to leave the house, though.

Anyway, I looked outside this morning and saw our neighbor snow-blowing our drive-way clear. I couldn't believe it! The neighbor said she hoped I didn't mind her helping me out; was there anything she could run to the grocery store and pick up for me?

Seriously. I'm so humbled by my neighborhood's generosity this morning. I would've been fine without intervention, but it's so comforting having good neighbors watching out for us. I think Tory and I will bake up some more treats this afternoon to thank them for the efforts.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sibling Love

These two just crack me up.

I'm starting to see more of a relationship unfold between them with every passing day. So far, there's a lot more love coming from one side (Tory) than the other (Aden). I think he'll warm up to her in time, though. He sure smiles brightly when he sees her first thing in the morning. You can tell he's missed her.

I bought these coordinating t-shirts for each of the kids when Aden was born as part of their Big Sister / Little Brother gifts. For some reason, it's taken me 13 weeks to finally dress Tory and Aden alike and snap a few photos wearing the shirts. Poor Aden has grown so quickly, his 0-3 month onesie was skin-tight. This is the first and last time he'll ever wear his shirt. Tory's worn hers quite a bit though, and on this day she even accessorized with plastic necklaces and bracelets to match.

A thousand outtakes and only one or two keepers. Isn't that always the way with kids?

These pictures sum up their relationship to a tee...

Tory: Hi brudda, hi, hi, hi, hiiiiii
Aden: (Eh, you're getting close to me. I'm not sure about this...)

Tory: Eeeeeee!!! (Face-plants a slobbery kiss)

Aden: Wahhh!!! (Too hard! Too much squeezing!)

Tory: Aden, Aden, Adeeeeen! Oh, buddy. Oh, brudda.

Me: Tory, gentle!
Tory: Oh I sorry, Mom. (drapes feet on Aden instead)
Aden: (My legs! My legs!)

These two. I just can't get enough.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Bedtime Dance

I just had to sit down and document the craziness that is bedtime while I'm on solo parenting duty. I do countless rounds of getting these little kiddos to sleep throughout the week, but bedtimes seem to be especially challenging. I think it's because Aden is tired and fussier than usual during the hours of 6:00pm - 8:00pm, and Tory is anything but those things. She seems to get one last burst of energy, and pulls out all the stops to delay her eminent bedtime. I'm sure this is nothing different than what's happening in a lot of homes with small children, but as I was in the midst of my little bedtime dance with these two, I realized how ridiculous it all is.

Here's how it usually goes down:

Around 6:00pm, Aden wakes up from his early evening power snooze and tends to be fussier than normal. He wants to be held which is super inconvenient for doing things like shoving food in my face or tidying up the house one last time. I shout out a few empty threats to Tory about finishing her dinner before bedtime. It never fails, she'll be famished and ready to eat at the very mention of settling down for the night.

On nights I'm doing the bedtime routine on my own, I try to start Tory into pajamas, brushing teeth and books earlier than normal because everything seems to take longer. That, and I'm exhausted by this point in the day. The sooner to bed, the sooner this Mama can finally collapse into bed myself.

It never fails, around 7:00pm as Tory's crawling into bed waiting for three books to be read to her, Aden has a crying fit. None of his usual favorites will suffice -- not the swing, his pacifier or the bouncy seat -- he must be held by me. I'll wear him in the Baby Bjorn while reading to Tory with my free hands. She starts to fuss because she wants me to sit down beside her, and I explain for the hundredth time that I can't because I'm bouncing Aden.

After three books, it's lights out. I stand next to Tory's bed and rub her belly in a clockwise motion with my right hand while still holding Aden in the Baby Bjorn on my chest. He requires his own series of bouncing, patting and shushing. It's like chewing gum, reading a book and walking at the same time. My extremities are doing different things and I have a hard time keeping it all in motion.

Finally Aden conks out in the Bjorn (thank goodness), so I've only got Tory to get to sleep. She asks for a drink (which I hand her) and a snack (which I deny her... should have eaten more food at dinnertime, kid). She says it's "too dark in my eyes" and stalls by making shadow puppets on the wall. Finally, I feel her little arms and legs twitch which is my sign she's fallen asleep. I exit her room with Aden still strapped in the Baby Bjorn and finish up chores around the house while he's still sleeping.

Around 8:00pm, Aden stirs in the baby carrier. I dress him in his Sleep Sack and nurse him once more before laying him down to sleep in his crib. Luckily, he's sleepy enough by this point that putting him down is easy.

When I was pregnant with Aden, I always wondered how I'd manage bedtime with two kids. I guess the answer is, I do what's necessary to get the job done ... even if it takes as many arms as an octopus to do it.


Naturally, I saw this clip posted on Facebook this morning and just had to laugh. Jerry Seinfeild talking about bedtime with his own kids. Too funny!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letters to Aden: Three Months

Hello my little boy,

You are three months old today!

It's as if the little person you're becoming has come alive the last few weeks. Your personality is starting to blossom and you're the happiest, calm little dude. (Can I get a hallelujah?!) Well, there were a few days around nine weeks of age when you were fussier than normal. The baby books say you were going through one of your first mental leaps of development around this time as you began to discover the world around you. It seems to be true because you love to look around these days, watch Tory playing in the living room, or me cooking dinner in the kitchen. You'll lay in your swing for a long time and watch your reflection in the mirror above you. Most times, your chill personality is up for whatever - riding in the car, wiggling around on a blanket, or hanging out in the Baby Bjorn attached to me.

You're a talkative baby (your favorite sound to make is "ooooh") and if you're awake, you're almost always making some sort of cooing sound. The day you turned 12 weeks old, you laughed for the very first time. I've been waiting to hear that little chuckle because excitement just radiates on your face. You've so smiley all the time and now you have an adorable baby laugh to go with it. You flash me a great big grin first thing in the mornings and smile from ear to ear when you see Daddy after work every day. I've even seen you smile at Tory this month, so it's safe to say your big sister is growing on you.

Brudda (as Tory calls you), you're growing like a weed. This month, you're wearing size 6 month clothes and they aren't any too big on you. In fact, I'd bet you'll be moving up a clothing size very soon. You aren't necessarily filling the clothes out width-wise, you're just long and stretching right out of onesies and one-piece outfits. I'm in serious denial about your size (how can my baby be growing up so quickly?!) and I'm shocked time and time again when I try a "huge" outfit on you only to discover it fits just fine.

Things you love this month: the activity mat, baby swing, pacifiers, being wrapped tightly in your fuzzy blue blanket, riding around in the Baby Bjorn and splashing in the bathtub. You've really started to notice things around you and purposefully move your arms, fists and legs in the direction of objects. When you're nursing, you bat your fists toward my nose or stroke the few pieces of hair on your head, and "kick, kick, kick" your legs feverishly when sitting in the bouncy seat. If I'm holding you on my lap, you prefer to stand on your legs rather than sit, although you can't support your weight for long. Big sister Tory is kind enough to make sure you have a toy to play at all times. She nestles dollhouse people in your armpits and piles board books and rattles on your belly. Isn't she just the sweetest to always keep you in mind? 

You outgrew the baby bassinet next to our bed this month, so we moved you to your crib at 11 weeks old. It broke my heart having you sleep so far away from me (across the hallway - ha!), but you truly are sleeping better in your crib. The transition was easy; you seem to sleep anywhere. These days, you're usually waking up for the day around 9:00am, taking an afternoon nap around Noon - 2:30pm, a power snooze around 5:00pm and are asleep for the night around 7:30pm. I use the term "asleep for the night" loosely, of course, because you're still eating every three hours around the clock. You're distracted very easily while eating during the day and I think that's why you're not sleeping in longer stretches at night. You seem to guzzle down milk at nighttime and during the day if Tory's being loud or we're not tucked away somewhere by ourselves (which, honestly, can't happen all that often when it's just you, Tory and I at home), eating can be hit or miss with you. 

It still amazes me how I can lay you down after a feeding, or anytime really, and you're perfectly content to look around or fall asleep on your own. It's just so ... awesome having a happy little baby like you. Sometimes if you're having a hard time getting settled, you will fuss for a bit and you have a bad habit of clawing at your face and head. After you'd wake up with scratches all over you, I finally dug out some baby mittens for you to wear. 

Aden, you still have the most beautiful baby blue eyes. I'm curious to see if they'll change color, but so far your blue eyes seem to be here to stay. I can't quite figure out where you've inherited them. Both Daddy and Tory have brown eyes and almost everyone in my family has green eyes. I'm interested to see what's to come of yours. In the meantime, I love looking into your beautiful eyes and depending on what you're wearing or if you're siting in the sunshine, they just sparkle.

Everyday with you just gets better and better, and I'm excited to see what's in store for you in the weeks to come. Love you, my little lion cub.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Removing an Ice Shack from the Lake: Not as Easy as You'd Think

I sound like a broken record saying this, but we had another great weekend at the lake cabin. Love our little slice of paradise there. It's just so fun to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and do things outside our normal.

Andi's parents joined us at the cabin Saturday morning and offered to babysit the kids during some of their stay so Andi and I could get away for some time together. That made three date activities last week which really helped up my energy and patience levels going into this long week of solo parenting. Plus, it's always nice to spend quality time with my favorite guy.

A few cabin neighbors invited us out for a Saturday afternoon snowmobiling ride and since we already had a babysitter around (wahoo, that never happens!), we jumped at the chance. I was a little nervous to ride in a big group of people since I've only been snowmobiling a handful of times and didn't want to embarrass myself by driving too putsy. I pulled on my big girl britches though, and Andi said I did great. It was fun, too.

Saturday evening, Andi and I went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday one last time. We tried to eat at our favorite "nice" restaurant in the area but it was packed with late Valentine's Day diners, so we ended up at an old stand-by, The Hilltop Retreat. We go to Hilltop quite a bit because it's kid friendly and they have a nice salad bar but let me tell you, it was a whole new experience eating there without the kids. Peaceful. Relaxing. Enjoyable. It reminded Andi and I of the first time we ate at Hilltop in the early days of renting our cabin. He fell in love with their tasty Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned cocktails and we had all the excitement ahead of discovering a new lake town.

On Sunday, Andi was determined to pull the ice house off the lake so that was an all-day project. Usually when you put an ice shack on a frozen lake, there's a plowed road from the boat launch which is maintained all season and allows cars and ice houses to go to and from the lake all winter. Pipe Lake isn't the best for ice fishing in the area but we wanted it to be close to our cabin, so our shack was one of only a few on our lake. There's no plowed road from the boat launch, but it wasn't a big deal because we'd just drive our Ranger ATV through the snow. Well, the weather dumped snow, snow and more snow on the lake this winter and it became increasingly difficult to get out to our ice fishing shack. The last two weeks, Andi had to drive superfast in the Ranger just so we didn't get stuck on the ice. A few times, we did get stuck and he either had to shovel or use a snowmobile and chains tied to trees on the island to pull the Ranger out. So, not ideal. With as much snow that had accumulated, he knew he wouldn't be able to pull the ice house off the lake without getting creative.

State law says all ice houses must be removed from the ice in early March, so time was running out to find a solution. If ice shacks aren't removed by the deadline, the DNR comes and burns the shacks down, so it's not really an option to leave it until the snow melts. Since there were quite a few neighbors around last weekend, but wouldn't be the case in upcoming weeks, Andi decided now was the time to move the shack.

Mid-day Sunday, Tory and I were playing outside in the snow when I saw two Ranger ATVs and the shack barreling down the ice toward the cabin. Luckily, I had my camera in my coat pocket so I snapped a few shots of them coming back to land. I swear there were times the house was skidding on two wheels. The guys were trucking moving that thing off the lake!


Somehow they managed to drive it up into the yard without running into the beach retaining wall. Maybe Andi had control of the shack, but it sure didn't look like it from my point of view. Then, the next problem was one of the trees was in the way. The guys worked for an hour or so trying to tow it from its resting spot with no luck.

Finally, our neighbor friend Joe went back to his cabin to get his big John Deere tractor. The tractor man-handled that ice house no problem and tugged it to a resting spot alongside our cabin.

It was crazy watching all that unfold and I'm sure the guys secretly loved using all their man-toys to the fullest. I'm glad it's off the ice so we won't have to worry about it anymore, but it's sad to think our ice fishing days inside the shack are over for the season. We can still fish, of course, we'd just have to put out tip ups on the ice and stand next to them. Hopefully the weather warms up a bit and it won't be too miserable to be outside without shelter.

Tory and I had fun playing in the snow before all that took place. The weather was finally tolerable Sunday (mid 20's, probably) so we were able to play outside for quite a while. I tried to pull Tory in the sled around the backyard, but the snow was seriously as deep as my thigh. So, we built snow castles with sand pails and decorated them with fallen leaves on the ground. She was having a fun time.

As exciting as it's been to go snowmobiling and ice fishing this winter, I'm definitely looking forward to the weather warming up at the cabin. Missing our cabin walks through the woods, big time. Soon enough, I hope ....

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reflection (Those Dang Postpartum Hormones)

I think my postpartum hormones are in overdrive. Here's the crash-boom-bang I was waiting for in the early days after Aden was born. There's no tears welling up behind my eyes and it's definitely nothing as severe as PPD ... I've just felt very "reflective" about my life and loved ones lately.

Oh, and I've got a left eye twitch that just won't quit. It has nothing to do with the fact that I'm running on to zero sleep. Nope. Nothing to do with that little fact, I'm sure. Whenever I'm talking with someone and my eye starts twitching like crazy, I feel like I'm losing it.

My hair's also falling out like nobody's business. Gotta love that little postpartum side effect. Poor little Aden's clothes are covered in hair most days and I was even pulling strands out of his neck rolls this past weekend. Man, it's rough being this little dude.

Love him.

Anyway, it's my emotions that have me really thrown for a loop lately. A pillow-talk conversation with Andi last week left me reeling for more one-on-one time with him. Thankfully, it was my birthday week and Andi's parents watched the kids several different days so we had some kid-free time to go out to dinner, snowmobiling with friends at the cabin, etc. We're very lucky to have them for support. Again, I digress ... It was one of many conversations about our five-year plan that left me thinking about "us." (Why I'm over-analyzing this to death is beyond me because it's one of those things that's so hard to plan anyway. I couldn't have forecasted how wonderful our life would be at this very moment back in 2008. In the last five years, we've gotten married, started a business, had two kids, bought two houses and a cabin.)

But, during our conversation of Where Do We See Our Lives Going, the topic of Third Baby came up (which is crazy because Second Baby just got here; that's postpartum hormones for you) and Andi said how much he misses Us. And, man, I really miss us, too. We love our kids to the moon and back, but these little kid years of parenting are so physically demanding. Between work, kids, running a home and all the other things ... there just isn't a lot of time left for Andi and Heather the Couple. I think we're doing a good job of making time for us with date nights a few times a month, etc. I hope it's enough to sustain our relationship until Tory and Aden become a little more independent. What if Third Baby comes to existence? We'll love he/she to pieces of course, but it's just that much longer And and Heather the Couple are put on the back-burner. It's just a lot to ponder. I think in time we'll know which fork in the road is best to venture downward, but yeah. Deep stuff. With all this reflection, I'm trying to remind myself how lucky we are to have one another and just enjoy the moment we're in today. The days are long, but the years are short .... and all that jazz.

I've also been trying to put myself in Andi's shoes more these days. My husband works so hard to provide for our family, and sometimes I think I take his efforts for granted. When I'm able, I'm trying to pick up a little extra in the parenting / home life department to give him more breathing room. Like the last few weeks, for example, when he's had several big work projects going on. If I can get up with both kids in the night and let him sleep or give him a little "me time" in the evenings to come down from his day, I'm trying to be more cognizant and do so. It's not always easy because I seriously want to pounce him for adult conversation the minute he walks in the door every night, but I'm trying.

I've been thinking a lot about my Tory Girl and I as well. She and I used to spend (nearly) every minute of every day together. Since Aden was born, we've had to find our new groove and I've split my attention between the two. A post Mama Tully wrote a few weeks ago made me realize I need to carve out specific time for Tory and I to spend together. Of course we're together 24/7 the way it is, but I want to find some "meaningful" time to be together because I don't want to fall into the role of custodial parent. So, I lined up Grandma Janie to babysit Aden this week and Tory and I are going on a little date day afternoon. I'm really excited. A few different times, I've found myself wanting to invite friends to accompany us and I've had to stop and remind myself that, no, this time is all about Tory and I. Who knew just "hanging out" with her would be such a challenge. I still haven't nailed down plans for our afternoon together yet. More to come on that one ....

Of course, I want to do the same for Aden when he gets a little older. For now, I'm really trying to be present in the time he and I are together. We spend several hours a day nursing, so I've been focusing on putting my phone and computer away and segregating ourselves from everything else (when possible) so I can just be with him. I think Aden really appreciates my undivided attention and I know he nurses better when there's less distraction.

As crazy-pants as I feel half the time, like I'm barely making all this work, I also feel good about being more present in my time with Andi, Tory and Aden. I hope this sticks and makes a difference in my relationship with each one of them.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Welp, I'm officially an adult.

Thirty-three was the year it happened.

My #1 birthday gift was a toothbrush (no sweat, I requested it) and for the first time in years, I was too pre-occupied to celebrate the official minute I was born (8:25am). I guess you could say I've had more important things on my mind.

Two pretty good reasons, if you ask me.

I'm usually all about birthdays, like, the entire month of February is one big celebration of my special day. But this year, February 13 snuck up on me fast and my big day was here before I knew it. Officially an old lady or not, I did have a pretty wonderful day. I spent the morning at Tory's gymnastics class, came home and fed the kids, then Andi's parents stopped over mid-afternoon so I could go shopping alone. I spent an hour or so at the mall trying on clothes and burning through the last of my Christmas gift cards. Andi came home around 5:30pm and we spent a kid-free evening together.

We'd originally planned to go out for a fancy dinner, but last minute decided for a bit of an "unconventional" birthday date instead. You know how sometimes as a parent all you want is some peace and quiet? Well, I half-jokingly mentioned to Andi we should get a hotel room and sneak in a quick nap before returning home to the responsibility of parenting. He took my suggestion literally (ha!) and booked a hotel room in Minneapolis' West End shopping area for my birthday evening. We clicked our cell phones to "off" and checked into the hotel with nothing but a bottle of red wine for the next four hours. So, I spent my 33rd birthday lounging around with my husband over room-service, wine and silence. It was pretty amazing, actually, and felt a little adventurous, too.

Andi really did give me a Sonicare toothbrush for my birthday, but I asked for it so he's not in the dog-house. I'm strangely excited to use it. Dental hygiene is important in adult life, you know. Also proving I'm now a grown-up, my mom and dad gave me a gravy boat for my birthday. I had to laugh when I opened the package because a) it's actually a really nice gravy boat and b) I haven't the faintest idea how to even make gravy. Guess I better get on that.

So, welcome Thirty-Three. Here's hoping your a good one.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thankful for Good Friends

If there's one thing I've done the last few years to better myself, it's improving the skill of making new friends. This was a difficult thing to teach myself because it's intimidating to strike up a conversation with someone new. For most of my twenties really, personal insecurities hindered me from reaching out to others in social situations. I can do it (in the working world, say, when it's imparative) but it's uncomfortable to put myself out there. I think it is for a lot of people! I've finally realized it doesn't matter. The worst thing that can happen is the "someone new" doesn't talk back and you know what, it's their loss.

One of the best things about having kids is they're a natural icebreaker. Two years ago this spring, I struck up a conversation with a mom in Tory's swimming class named Lindsey. I remember plan-fully going to swimming a few minutes early each Friday so I'd have a chance to talk with other moms and my (admittedly, slightly embarrassing) strategy paid off. Lindsey and I immediately hit it off and we've been friends ever since. The best part is, Lindsey's daughter Ashley is Tory's best friend, too. We sign up for all the same activities and have the best time together.

For months now, I've been bugging Lindsey to join us at the lake cabin for a weekend. She and her husband, Dan, moved to Minnesota from North Carolina so "winter cabin life" (snowmobiling, ice fishing, etc.) are completely new to them. I was dying to show Lindsey one of my favorite places in the world. Our calendars finally aligned and Lindsey, Dan, Ashley and Baby Taylor joined us at Pipe Lake this weekend. I had such a great time, I'm still riding the high this morning. Good friends are truly a gift.

Lindsey and crew arrived Friday evening. Tory just couldn't wrap her head around Ashley being there. "Ashley at my cabin?" she kept saying. It's like her worlds were colliding. We let the kids play, told stories over dinner and laughed well into the early morning hours. You know we were having a blast if Andi and I stayed up past 10pm.

Saturday, Andi took Dan out snowmobiling for the morning while Lindsey and I stayed back at the cabin with the kids. It seems like every time Lindsey and I get together, we're never get to have a real conversation because we're constantly shouting over kids. As a mom, it's hard to carve out time to get together without kids, so it was awesome to let the girls play while we sat around and talked. There wasn't a lull in conversation for even a second.

We met the guys out on the snowmobiling trail for lunch at the Barronett Bar and Grill. Then, we spent the rest of the day hanging out around the cabin together. The kids were exhausted from playing so hard all weekend, we put them to bed at 7:00pm Saturday night. Seriously, the stars aligned because we had the entire evening to ourselves. Lindsey and Dan made delicious lamb chops for dinner (we ate a hot dinner, together, without kids!), then had a blast playing Cards Against Humanity.

Card games! No kids!

Sunday morning, Andi set up the ice house and we took our Minnesota-transplant friends on their first ice fishing experience. We didn't catch any fish sadly, but I think Dan and Lindsey enjoyed the experience nonetheless. It was -9 degrees Sunday morning, so we couldn't really let the little girls play outside. Shortly after, we packed up the cabin and headed back home.

Can't get more redneck than driving the Ranger out on the ice to the ice fishing shack!

Playing in snow for .9 seconds before we got too cold

True friends are hard to come by, and I'm truly thankful for this one. What a great cabin weekend!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Five-Year Plan

A frequent conversation around our dinner table these days is our little family's five-year plan. Maybe it's the winter season causing us to dream of warmer climates or the everyday stresses of life, but someday we'd love to travel the world with our kids.

I gifted Andi one of those push pin travel maps for Christmas and we spent some time last weekend "pinning" our map and reminiscing about trips of the past. On our map, white pins are places Andi's traveled solo, black pins are places we've traveled together and red pins are places our family (Andi, the kids and I) has traveled together. We went away from the standard "trips taken / trips in process / trips we'd like to take" because we could pin just about anywhere in the world for places we'd like to go.

It's no secret Andi and I both love to travel. Before Tory was born, we promised ourselves having a family wouldn't stray us from being adventurous; maybe we'd just have to alter the way we travel in some ways. For having two small kids, I'd say Andi and I have done well at sticking to our promise. We've taken trips to Key West, Austin and Savannah, GA with Tory and this time next month we'll be soaking up the sun in Cabo San Lucas with both kids. Sometimes Andi argues it's easier to "vacation" at our lake cabin with Tory and Aden because there's plenty to do there and we have all the comforts of home (high chairs, bouncy seat, baby swing, etc.; basically, kid necessities).

But, there's something special about discovering a new place in the world -- whether it's a new state within the U.S. or half-way across the world. While we were completing our travel map, one point that smacked Andi and I square in the face is how vast the world is. We think we've been a lot of places -- Panama, London, Paris, Bangkok -- but we haven't scratched the surface. Someday, we'd like to change that.

How amazing would it be to take a year (or, two or three years?) to travel the world as a family. We'd sell everything we own and buy round trip plane tickets. Andi's been nose-deep in books about other families doing this very thing. Of course, there's grown-up responsibilities to think of including Tory and Aden's preschool / elementary education, jobs, money, but there are also answers to these questions out there.

Will our travel dreams ever come to fruition? I'd like to think so. Traveling full-time with kids sounds like a ton of work (and it would have its challenges), but now's really the time. What an amazing gift to give our children to see the world first-hand.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Potty Training Malfunction

I've been meaning to talk about Tory's fall from the potty training wagon. Last fall, things were going so well on that front and I was proud of my girl for breezing through such a big milestone easily. Tory was hardly having any accidents and could even travel long distances in the car without issue. I wasn't a big fan of potty training her before Aden was born but since she was the one who seemed interested and it all clicked into place, I went with it and the transition was a smooth one. (Well, as smooth as it can be for a hugely pregnant lady to squat down and help a little girl with her business).

Aden was born in November and almost immediately, Tory lost interest in using the toilet. The first week home from the hospital was one potty accident after another. My parents were staying with us for a week to help with the kids and Andi was on paternity leave; yet, despite having all those adults around to help Tory use the bathroom she wet her pants repeatedly. No amount of bribery worked. Clearly, Tory had no interest as she'd wet her underwear mere seconds after being changed. It was okay while my parents were here doing laundry but after they left, I was seriously having a hard time managing the household, a new baby and keeping enough pants and underwear clean for Tory to wear  on a daily basis (and the girl has a boatload of clothes).

Andi and I had a few conversations about what we were going to do about it. Andi bought some Pull-Ups for Tory and we went back and forth about whether to put her in them full-time. Finally around Christmastime, in a moment of frustration, I decided we were done. Here I was tired, hormonal and literally forcing Tory's legs down onto the toilet while she fought me tooth and nail to use the bathroom. She was crying and I was yelling. I thought to myself, "Man, this isn't worth the trouble." I put Tory in diapers and never looked back.

Can I be honest for a minute? It's glorious having Tory back in diapers. There, I said it! It was a pain in the a%* asking Tory if she had to use the toilet every hour. It was an even bigger pain having to wash soiled clothing every single day. Don't even get me started on having to use grimy public bathrooms and the fact that my child smelled like urine 24/7. Tory in diapers is one less thing I have to worry about right now and that's fine by me. 

Now two months later, Tory is still in diapers. The kicker of it all is she knows how to use the toilet, but specifically chooses not to do so. Just today, Tory told me she had to go to the bathroom, crawled up on the toilet and went and then asked for a diaper afterwards. I let her do just that. There's something to the pediatrician's words of wisdom regarding potty training regression when a new baby joins the family. It happens. The parent educator at Tory's preschool said "potty training is a intimate act between a parent and child and the child has to be mentally ready to relinquish this act from their daily lives." In hindsight, I couldn't agree more. I think Tory is craving that one-on-one parent connection right now.

So, two kids in diapers. Big whoop! It's just money, right? Ha. I'm in no rush to embark on the potty training band wagon anytime soon. Tory will have to be potty trained for preschool at Age 3, so maybe we'll restart late summer when we're down to the deadline. In the meantime, I am the worst advocate of potty training right now so a word of caution: don't ask me for potty training advice or I'll kindly tell you to ride the diaper train as long as your kid lets you ... especially that is, if a new baby is on the way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tory, Lately

I was chatting with another mother at Tory's gymnastics class the other day and we were comparing the physical and emotional developments of our children, as you do. In defense of Tory's uncoordinated ways (ha, poor kid), I was telling the mother Tory is "freshly two" in comparison to other kids in the class who are almost three and four years old (and thus, quicker to catch onto instruction).

Later, I was thinking about it and realized my Tory Bean will be 2 1/2 years old at the end of February. She's half-way to Three and this floored me. Really, I couldn't let myself believe it until I took a moment to count her age in months again. I know winter is moving slow as molasses for every single person in the country. But since Aden was born, my life has flown by in the blink of an eye and along with it, a good chunk of my little girl's second year.

Tory is a delight to be around. I mean, don't get me wrong, she is a strong-willed, independent, tantrum-throwing little devil sometimes. There are also plenty moments I could squeeze her for being so adorable, for saying the cutest thing, for showing her smarts and showering us with displays of affection.

Like the way she snuggled into my bed this morning at 5:00am. I try not to talk to her much in the early morning hours if I want any chance of her falling back asleep to say, 6:30am. Tory wiggled her body next to mine and said, "Snuggle me, Mama" so I wrapped my arm around her little belly. A few minutes passed and then she said, "Wuv you, Mama." My heart melted. It still brings tears to my eyes as I think about it again. It's so weird because Tory tells Andi she loves him all the time, but she will never say it to me. It's the first time I've ever heard her tell me those words and it was seriously a highlight of my parenting career. Love that girl.

Other things that just kill me lately are the way Tory tip-toes when she's trying to be quiet. Some days she purposely screeches when Aden's around but other (more considerate) times, she tells me to tip-toe as to not disturb her brother. Tory's tip-toe isn't just about walking softly; she hunches her entire body over in a slump with her head hanging low between her shoulders. She raises her knees in big up-and-down motions and toddler-whispers, "Shhh! Tip-toe, tip-toe, tip-toe" all along the way.

Lately she's all about keeping busy and every morning she asks, "Where we going, Mom?" when I'm getting her dressed for the day. Sometimes, the answer is nowhere and other days we discuss music class or gymnastics and who of her friends will be there. Last Friday, we weren't but 15 minutes into our drive to the cabin when Tory asked from the backseat, "Are we there yet?" Andi and I chuckled to ourselves from the as-seen-in-the-movies cliche of her question. Tory obviously didn't know why it was funny, but picked up on Andi and I's humor in it. Then, Tory proceeded to ask "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" over and over again for the next 20 minutes. She didn't know why it was funny; just that it was and she was going to milk it for all it was worth.

I'm sure she learned this one from me, but the response to anything Tory doesn't want to do is "I busy now." No matter the task - picking up her toys or a request to grab me a burp cloth - "I busy now!"

She calls all meals "breakfast" no matter the food or time of day. "I all done with my breakfast!" (I feel the need to add exclamation points at the end of her statements because every phrase is said with such enthusiasm.)

Music class on Fridays is held in an empty basement room of a local church. There's about 10 kids in the class and they're almost always running around chasing one another, or hiding in a corner of the room during class. Some kids are shy and stay close to their moms, but Tory is always one of the kids running around like mad. Last week at class, one mother told me afterwards that Tory had asked her two-year-old daughter to go hide in the corner with her. The little girl said she didn't want to and Tory nudged on, "Come on, let's go hide. It'll be fun." I seriously laughed out loud when the mother recapped the story to me. Oh Tory Bean, you're going to keep us on our toes, aren't you? I see this story being retold to me years down the road, only then involving boys and beer.

It's amazing how much Tory's imagination has developed in the span of a few months. She loves playing doctor ("I have a diagnosis!"), dress-up, dollhouse, grocery store and magician ("Ladies and gentleman!"). I seriously don't know where she comes up with some of this stuff. She keeps me smiling all day long.