Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teacher Gifts and A School Report

Teacher appreciation gifts - are those a thing? Pinterest says Yes, but I'm not sure if it's an over-ambitious mom thing or real life.

My own mother always says "do what you think is best" and I didn't want to show up to Tory's last day of toddler preschool without a gift for her teachers, so Tory and I whipped together these cute little cards yesterday. I added a $5 coffee shop gift card inside each one.

Thank you for helping me bloom

And bloom she has. 

My little Tory Bean has grown by leaps and bounds since the first day of toddler preschool last September. Gone are the days my girl cried until she had no more tears to give; today, Tory proudly strutted into her classroom, posted her name tag photograph on the bulletin board and ran full-steam-ahead into her classroom. She delivered her handmade cards to her teachers with great pride. This group of teachers and classmates have made a positive impact.

The progression of Tory's development in the last seven months is astounding to me. It seems like just yesterday we (read: she) struggled to part during the parent / child separation portion of class, and now Tory waves me good-bye without a second thought. Tory can follow simple direction and "school processes" such as lining up to walk to the gym or sitting on a carpet square during Circle Time. It doesn't seem like much, and perhaps it could be argued she'd have developed these skills without the influence of a formal preschool curriculum, but I believe this class was great for Tory's overall growth. There were many occasions early into the fall semester where I worried I was pushing Tory too fast and now I'm thankful we stuck with it. She's absolutely thriving in her school environment.  

My girl is growing up. These days, Tory's actions more closely resemble a three-year-old preschooler than a two-year-old toddler and within the last month or two, I've noticed a big shift in Tory's maturity. For the most part, she shares with other kids during play dates and is so sweet and nurturing to Aden. During the parent portion of our last class, we watched a few short videos of our kids playing and interacting over previous weeks. It was interesting to see the same child development principles we've discussed in parent sessions throughout the year unfold before our eyes in the real toddler classroom. One clip showed Tory stacking blocks by herself. The parent educator pointed out this is early spacial development for toddlers (for Tory in this instance) and when another little boy joined in to stack a flat board onto Tory's tower, she welcomed him by holding the tower base steady instead of physically or verbally acting to stop it. Watching the video, I was so proud of Tory for the way she handled herself in various social play situations. How grown up she's becoming! It was also evident how much my Tory Girl loves the camera. Hmmm, I wonder where she would've inherited that trait? Ahem.  Tory seemed to follow the lens as the teacher documented the kids' play and even fake-cried at one point when something didn't go her way. Oh, Tory ...

Our first of many, many school experiences has come to a close. Now, school's out for summer (cue Alice Cooper). If only the weather would warm up around here and actually feel like it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cabin: Deep Thoughts & Weekend Recap

Lately, one of my favorite things to do at the lake cabin is lay in bed at night and watch the stars twinkle outside the bedroom window on a clear spring night. It feels like I'm laying directly underneath the heavens when in reality, I'm snuggled in our soft sheets and blankets.

When I think about nursing my babies, I have a touching memory - almost a sensation - that instantly sums up my feelings for them and this it for Aden and I. Those stars. Laying in bed for countless hours over the last five months gazing out the cabin windows at the sky above us. I love it.

Saturday morning as I woke to feed Aden sometime around 6:00am, I glanced out the window and saw a baby deer rummaging for food in the brush not 50 feet away. Seriously so amazing. 


Signs of spring are taking hold around the cabin. Birds singing, frogs croaking and the ice slowly coming off the lake. The bay where our cabin is located is mostly melted now, but the bigger part of Pipe Lake is still frozen. The beauty of it all struck me Friday afternoon as we arrived for the weekend. Summer, fall, winter ... and now spring is pushing in little by little. This is our fourth year at this cabin, but never before have we visited so often and watched the progression of seasons happen week-by-week. I thought it was neat to look at the lake and see bits of open water next to frozen icebergs. In a few more days (weeks?) the ice will be gone. Pontoon boat rides are on the horizon!

It's become Andi and I's Friday evening ritual to grab dinner at a local restaurant/townie bar, come back and put the kids to bed, then indulge in a sauna sweat session together. It feels insanely good to sit in the hot, humid air and let all the stressors of the week melt away. We listen to Dierks Bentley, John Mayer or Damien Rice and just talk. Or sometimes, we sit in the quiet and don't say anything at all. My crazy husband uped the ante Friday night by jumping in the ice-cold lake mid-sauna session. I thought he was nuts and of course laughed hysterically as I watched him run down the lawn from the steaming sauna to the freezing lake and back again. It's the way traditional Finns sauna, but still ... crazy. You won't catch me jumping into the water in April!

Saturday, Andi's mom decided to join us at the cabin and brought along Andi's 10-year-old cousin, Mia. Of course we were excited to have Grandma Janie visit, and even more stoked to have a built-in babysitter to play with Tory all weekend. Mia is so sweet with her.

Saturday afternoon Andi took Tory, Mia and I out for a "truck ride" on the trails while Janie stayed back at the cabin with Aden. I realized as we drove along I haven't been out on the Ranger ATV once since Aden was born (well, aside from very quick jaunts to the ice house and back). It felt good to be riding around in the woods again, outdoors, scouting for wild life and enjoying each other's company.

During our ride, we stopped by the donkey farm which is one of Tory's favorite things to do at the cabin. She insists on "feeding" them (which is really her picking up grass and straw from the ground and tossing it toward the donkeys). We're such frequent donkey visitors, Andi and Tory nickname them "the donks." 

This one was sniffing me which Andi found hilarious

We invited our cabin neighbors Oscar and Deanna, Krista and her girls Hannah and Kate, and McCall over for dinner at our place Saturday night. Andi bought a new rotisserie for the grill and made chicken, grilled pineapple, smashed potatoes and green beans for everyone. It was delicious and so much fun having a cabin full of people. The adults talked while the kids played together.

Janie offered to babysit Sunday, so Andi and I scooted away for a quick morning date. We went to The County Line Tavern for breakfast (eggs, toast, hash browns, bacon, muffins and coffee - all for $15 total!), then drove around on country roads, talked and listened to the radio. The weather was cold and rainy, so we spent the afternoon cuddled up by the fire while the kids took naps. I rocked Aden for the longest time and watched the rain fall outside the window. So peaceful.

It was a perfect cabin weekend. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day In The Life: Spring 2014

As I lay in bed last Wednesday night browsing social media on my iPhone, I noticed someone's Day In The Life post announcement on Instagram. I quickly clicked over to Navigating The Mothership's blog to see if I'd missed the chance to join in Laura's quarterly blog series. Phew, I hadn't. I've participated in her DITL series for three years now (!!) and I'd hate to sit out now. I decided to recap the next day, Thursday, April 17 so it'd give me a few days to pull everything together before the deadline.

Tory is 2 years, 7 months old
Aden is 4 months old


Midnight: Ack. I'm up way too late tonight. I glance at the clock and I'm already dreading morning. Andi is traveling this week and it's been a constant go-go-go taking care of our two kiddos. With an infant who's still waking frequently to eat, I'm getting little sleep these days but I also crave my own down-time to blog, surf the Internet, read and catch up on some of my favorite TV shows. There's never enough hours to fit everything into a day. Last night (Wednesday), I fell asleep around 11:00pm, Aden woke up at 11:20pm to nurse and now it's 12:00am Thursday and I can't fall back asleep for the life of me. I grab my iPhone off the nightstand and continue reading Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family's Year of Gusty Living on a Tropical Island. Andi and I are dreaming of the day we pack up our family and travel the world, so I've been into books written by those who've taken the plunge into similar adventures. 

12:47am: Tory runs into the master bedroom, which is just next door to hers, screaming "Mommy!" It seems like she's had a bad dream as she's shaken up and half-delirious. I pull her into our new king-size bed where there's plenty of room for the both of us. For some reason, she still snuggles right beside me leaving half the bed empty.

1:44am: I wake to hear Aden coughing from his crib in the nursery across the hallway. More coughing and then crying. I look at the clock, do the math in my head and decide he's not ready to eat. I get up to plug his pacifier back in his mouth, hoping that'll do the trick.

1:55am: More fussing from Aden. Another pacifier plug.

3:02am: Aden awakes again, I retrieve him and bring him back into bed with me to nurse.

4:19am: I'm jolted awake, sitting up in bed with a seemingly broken neck. I must've fallen asleep while nursing Aden. I glance over at Tory sleeping spread-eagle beside me in bed and Aden snoozing peacefully in my arms. I get up and put Aden in his crib to sleep, then crawl back into bed myself.

5:00am: I wake up to Tory shouting in her sleep. She's moaning and saying something like "don't get me." Another bad dream? At two-and-a-half years old, I wonder and worry what she could possibly be dreaming so vividly.

5:22am: Aden wakes up coughing and crying from his crib. I get up and move him to his swing in the living room which is usually our routine early morning. He seems half-awake, but usually falls back asleep in the swing giving me a few more minutes of sleep. Oof, I'm tired.

6:39am: I wake up to a chipper Tory inches from my face, asking for yogurt and a television cartoon. I can hear Aden cooing and chatting from his swing in the living room.

6:45am: After Tory's tenth request for yogurt in the span of minutes, I pry myself out of bed. Outside the kitchen window I notice 7 inches of freshly fallen snow covering our backyard. I bring back Tory's beloved Chobani squeeze yogurts -- first blueberry, then strawberry; always in that order (never deviate from the routine or there's hell to pay) -- to her laying in my bed. Next, I wish Aden good morning, change his diaper, lotion his body and dress him for the day. He's beginning to achieve the awesome milestone of holding himself in a sitting position while I pull his onesie over his head.

7:00am: I nurse Aden and play with him in bed while Tory eats yogurt and watches Curious George beside us.

7:30am: Aden's already fussy and tired, so I lay him back in his swing to catch some more zzz's. Tory and I head to the kitchen to make breakfast. I brew coffee and make instant oatmeal for me while pre-heating the oven to make bunny cinnamon rolls for her. We've been making our way through a series of activities in anticipation for Easter and this is one of them on our list. Meanwhile, Andi and I exchange a few text messages. He's in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee this week, scouting for an ATV event he's producing for a client later this year.

8:00am: I do a series of morning chores -- unloading the dishwasher, clean up breakfast, pack our bag for swimming class later this morning, make the beds, etc. -- while Tory plays doctor in the living room. Next, I dress Tory and myself while texting my mom, friend Lindsey and one of our babysitters.

8:30am: Tory plays dollhouse while I run around the house, throwing in a load of laundry and loading the car for swimming class.

These two - I'm so in love. Tory begs to watch a show for just one minute while Aden practices tummy time beside her.

9:00am: On our way out the door, I draw Tory's attention to the snow on the ground. "Don't worry, Mommy. It will be gone soon," she says. I must've sounded less than impressed with the weather on this mid-April morning.

9:20am: Aden cries during the entire drive to swimming class. He's dropped his pacifier and given the snowy roads and backed-up traffic, I need to focus on driving instead of doing mama acrobatic moves to find his missing pacifier. Tory's chattering away while buckled in her car seat. She tells me she's caught some (imaginary) tiny fish and asks if I'd like to hold one. "Careful! It's flippery (slippery)," she says. She's un-phased by Aden's cries beside her in the car and praises me "good one, Mom!" as I cruise through a slushy puddle of melted snow on the exit ramp. If she isn't her father's daughter....

9:50am: In the locker room before class, Tory and I change into our swimming suits and I also change Aden's poopy diaper. Tory entertains herself by washing her hands a million times at the sink.

What DITL post is complete without a bathroom selfie?

10:00am: Out of five children in class, Tory is the only student at swimming today. I knew her best friend Ashley would be absent as my friend Lindsey (Ashley's mom) text me earlier saying Ashley is sick with the flu. On Thursdays, Lindsey and I hired a college-age babysitter to care for our two littlest children, Aden and her daughter Taylor, while we swim with the toddler girls (Tory and Ashley) during their class. Babysitter Kayleigh sits with Aden in the swimming pool observation area nearby.

During Tory's (now private!) swimming lesson, the instructor gives her a pair of pink goggles to wear. It's the first time Tory's ever worn goggles underwater. She's a little apprehensive at first, but quickly figures out water won't get in her eyes if she wears them and instantly becomes fearless. Tory's not one of those kids with a natural love for the water. She likes swimming class, but will strategically figure out a way to reach for colored rings without submerging her face while other kids dive full-steam-ahead into the water. Now with goggles, Tory is diving and swimming underwater. I'm so proud of her!

10:30am: After swimming class is over, Tory and I quickly shower in the locker room while Kayleigh continues to watch Aden. I pay Kayleigh for her time and together we walk to our cars in the parking lot.

11:15am: Back at home, I scramble to make lunch for Tory as she whines at my feet from hunger. I prepare Tory's request for "orange soup" (tomato soup) and grilled cheese and a turkey and cheese sandwich for me. Aden's sleeping in his infant car seat and I know as soon as he wakes, he'll also be ready to eat. Of course, Aden cries out just as I'm sitting down to eat, but as least Tory's settled with her lunch and an episode of Super Why! on TV.

11:30am: I nurse Aden, then move him to the Johnny Jump-Up in the living room so I can quickly eat my lunch. I'm still hungry after my sandwich and a few White Cheddar Cheetos, so I make myself a spinach salad with cottage cheese, boiled egg and leftover chicken cut up into pieces on top. The appetite of a breastfeeding mama is truly amazing. I eat twice as much as Andi does during dinner most nights. Over lunch, I can't help but reflect on the last DITL post I wrote this winter shortly after Aden was born. Our everyday routine is definitely getting easier four months into life with two kids.

Noon: I clean up lunch dishes and play with the kids on the living room floor. Aden practices rolling over from tummy to back on his activity mat. He's not a big fan and screeches and squawks while he lays there. Tory's sweet with him and keeps him company with toys and her face mere millimeters away from him. "You can do it, buddy! You can do it, you can do it," she coaches him.

12:30pm: Aden's demeanor heads south, and he's ready for his afternoon nap. I lay him in the baby swing with his pacifier and favorite blue blankie. Tory becomes engrossed in an episode of Word World on PBS so I seize the opportunity to change a load of laundry and tidy up the spare bedroom downstairs. Andi keeps his clothes in the spare bedroom closet down there and that room's ... always a mess. Ugh.

12:50pm: I turn off the TV and tell Tory it's time for books before nap time. She whines something about not being tired. I tune her out and head down the hallway toward her bedroom. Eventually she climbs into her bed ("Tory do it! Don't help me!"), she snuggles under her pink covers and together we read Hello Kitty Easter, My First Easter, Are You A Cow? and a nursery rhyme book. Big time stall tactics from this girl today. She demands to have her night light unplugged from the wall, says it's too dark when she closes her eyes and wants to sleep with a photograph of her and best friend, Ashley. Tory makes a last-ditch plea for squeeze yogurt, asks me to rub her belly and "pinch her eyes" which basically means she wants me to rub my fingers over her temples. Grrr. Go to sleep, child!

1:25pm: Tory's asleep and Aden literally wakes up the moment I'm quietly exiting her room. Seriously, why does this happen? It's like they're in cahoots with one another to prevent Mama from having even one moment alone. As I walk down the hallway to retrieve Aden from his swing in the living room, I pass by the dog near-barfing on the baby's bedroom carpet. Gah. I scoop up Chloe and get her outside before she does any damage. Then, Aden and I play on the floor in the living room. I pull out my camera and take some photos of him. He starts fussing shortly thereafter, so I feed him and put him back in the swing to rest.

2:00pm: Aden acts tired, but won't fall asleep. Eventually, he poops ... ah-ha. That must've been the problem. I change his diaper, take the opportunity to lotion his skin while he's undressed and play with him on my bed for a while. Baby Boy just found his hands and it's the cutest thing.

2:30pm: Suddenly, I'm exhausted and desperately want a cup of coffee but I resist the urge to drink caffeine so late in the afternoon. Aden and I play some more and I fold clothes on the bed beside him. We're driving to Nebraska tomorrow for Easter and I'm trying to get all the laundry caught up before we leave.

3:00pm: Aden falls asleep in the baby swing. I hear Tory stirring but she doesn't emerge from her room, so I leave her alone to wake-up fully on her own. I use this rare moment by myself to check my e-mail and upload photos from the day.

3:30pm: Tory greets me in the kitchen just as my mother-in-law, Janie, arrives at our house. Earlier in the week, Janie offered to come play with the kids while I pack for our trip to Nebraska. Thank goodness for Janie! She makes my life easier. I attempt to talk to Janie over Tory's increasing demands for Grandma's attention, so I leave them be and set to work.

4:00pm: More laundry, picking out outfits for everyone and packing the suitcase.

5:00pm: I ask Janie if she'd like to stay for dinner and she agrees. I pull a meal out of the freezer and begin to cook it while Janie plays with the kids. Tonight, I make white fish, green beans and mashed potatoes (a far fancier meal than I'd make if Janie wasn't visiting and it was only Tory and I eating).

5:30pm: Janie and I eat the dinner I've prepared while Tory has macaroni and cheese, as she's refused to eat any fish, mashed potatoes or vegetables. After dinner and a quick clean-up of the kitchen, I return to packing while Janie plays with the kids.

6:00pm: We're driving Andi's vehicle to Nebraska, so I load car seats into his back seat. I ask Janie for permission to drive down the street and fill up the SUV with gas while she continues to watch the kids. After I return home, I pack snacks for the road trip and finish the laundry.

6:30pm: DONE! I'm seriously thankful for Janie because without her, I would've had to do all that packing tonight after the kids were in bed.

7:30pm: Janie reads books to the kids and Aden falls asleep in her arms. Shortly after, I take Aden to feed him once more before bed while Janie continues to play with Tory in her bedroom. I hear them playing "Sparky the horse" and "tea party" together. I put Aden to sleep in his crib while Janie gets Tory dressed in pajamas for bed. She reads her a few bedtime stories while I upload the remainder of photos for this post to my computer and pick up the house for the evening.

8:00pm: Janie summons me to Tory's room to finish her nighttime routine. I go into Tory's room to tuck her in (aka: sit next to her bed on a stool and rub her belly while she falls asleep -- our greatest parenting mistake to date by establishing this ridiculous routine with Tory). More bedtime stall tactics from Tory and lots of questions asked. Every answer I provide her is repeated back to me in the form of a question. For example:

Tory: Where's Grandma?"

Me: "She went home."

Tory: "What she do at home?"

Me: "She's going to sleep."

Tory: "Why she go to sleep?"

Me: "She has to work tomorrow."

Tory: "What she do at work tomorrow?"

Me: "She takes x-rays, remember?"

Tory: "Why she x-rays?"

OMG, child. Go to sleep! I love my Tory Girl, but I have few patience for bedtime. I'm thankful for Andi who usually takes care of this part of our nightly routine when he's home.

8:45pm: Tory's finally asleep. Thank goodness I've already packed for our trip tomorrow - I'm exhausted and immediately collapse into bed. I hear some stirring from Aden in his room, but he doesn't wake up. I pull out my laptop and play around on the Internet for a while, all while reminding myself the need to go to sleep ... soon.

9:15pm: I shut my computer lid and force myself to go to sleep. I pull up Freeways to Flip-Flops on my iPhone via the Kindle app and read until I fall asleep.

10:30pm: I wake to both kids crying for me at once. I get up and bring Tory to my bed, then I go get Aden from his crib and bring him back to nurse in bed, too. I fall asleep while feeding Aden and wake up at 12:30am with a sore neck. Tory's sprawled out beside me in bed and Aden's sleeping soundly in my arms.

And, here we go again ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter 2014

We're home from a whirlwind weekend trip to Nebraska where Andi, Tory, Aden and I celebrated the Easter holiday with my side of the family. Remember a year or so ago when I said we'd never again drive 7+ hours with a baby in the car? Yeah, about that ...

Driving from Minnesota to Nebraska with two little kids was not fun. Nothing "horrific" happened specifically; just a combination of Andi traveling for business the week beforehand leaving him tired and overstimulated, Tory catching some sort of illness making her feverish and lethargic most of the weekend, traffic and frequent stops along the interstate for Aden who eats every 3 hours. Our visit home was entirely too short to justify the hours spent on the road. All four of us were exhausted by the end. Perhaps we'll make the few times we do visit in a year more impactful by staying several days because traveling for a "quick weekend" doesn't work for us anymore.

Anyway, aside from the travel itself and Tory feeling under the weather much of the weekend, we had a nice time visiting with my family. We arrived just before Midnight Friday night and spent Saturday hanging around my parent's house with my mom and dad, brother and my sister's family. Saturday evening, my mom and dad prepared a nice ribeye and filet steak dinner for all of us and most of all, it was fun watching the kids play together.

All the grandkids together
Caleb holding Aden, Tanner holding Neeley, Brooke and Tory

A span of 15 years to 5 months old

Easter Sunday, we woke up very early for the 6:30am Sunrise Service at church. My family attended church together, then went to Easter breakfast held in the church basement. The breakfast was a fundraiser for their church's parochial school of which my sister is School Board President. (Personally, I'd have voted for a later morning church service since the hours of 5:00am - 7:00am seem to be the only time my children actually sleep these days ... but we all went together and it was nice.)

While we were at church, the Easter Bunny stopped by my parent's house and left Easter baskets for the kids. Tory was so excited about her basket and squealed with delight when she discovered her Doc McStuffins figurines and her automatic bubble maker. Aden was a big fan of his Sophie the Giraffe teether.

Tory and Aden's Easter Baskets

Brooke and Neeley loved their Easter baskets, too. 

...and more pictures just because I can't get enough of these cuties.

Neeley (20 months old)

We tried to get a group photo of the younger kids together in their Easter outfits. It proved quite difficult to get everyone to smile for the camera at once.

There's one photo in this series which I won't share here capturing my Easter dress pulled up around my middle and my rear end in place of the children's adorable faces. We all had quite the laugh as Andi noticed the photo he'd snapped by accident. Basically, it's the story of my life right now: always in a hurry, straightening the kids' clothing and trying to get them to smile; half-dressed most of the time due to nursing Aden. A funny memory, but my underwear isn't exactly blog-worthy so I'll spare you the photo. 

Anyway, later my family went to my aunt Cheri's house to celebrate Easter with my extended family. Cheri made a nice lunch for everyone and we exchanged Easter gifts amongst the kids. The weather was beautiful Sunday and it felt so lovely being outside in the warm sunshine. I also adored my kids' matching Easter outfits (probably because there's only so many holidays I'll be able to get away with something like that) and I'm happy we got a nice photo of us all together. 

Unfortunately, somewhere around Noon Tory started to feel sick again. I'm not exactly sure what was wrong with her this weekend. She'd seem fine one minute and the next would spike a 103 degree fever. For a mama with little experience with babies and fevers, they really make me nervous. Tory was suddenly burning up and I felt so sorry for her. Andi and I decided to split early and begin our drive back to Minneapolis. We missed the Easter egg hunt and spending quality time with my relatives.

So, our Easter was a blur ... but there were some great memories sandwiched between all the driving, sickness and general chaos. Tory seems to be in good health since we've returned home and Aden, Andi or I haven't felt sick. Let's hope whatever bug she caught stopped with her. 

We're meeting up with my extended family again in Des Moines, IA over Mother's Day weekend, so thankfully it wasn't "good-bye" but "see you soon" this past weekend. Looking forward to catching up with them all again soon. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Countdown Calendar Activities

This Easter holiday was fun because Tory finally understood the concept of holidays and celebrations. She's all about having "parties" these days and loves to decorate our house with her artwork. This month, we made an egg tree together (I grabbed a twig from our backyard, stuck it in a vase and hung plastic eggs from the branches) and she was so proud of our creation.

Since she loves "celebrating" so much, I thought it might be fun to do one holiday activity a day until Easter. My cousin, Jen, did a Valentine's Day countdown calendar with her preschooler, so I decided to steal the idea. I brainstormed a list of about 20 Easter / spring activities for Tory and I to do together. I thought about writing the activities on slips of paper and sticking them into plastic eggs (one for each day), but I wanted more control over which activity we completed. So, I set reminders on my iPhone calendar based on what our schedule permitted. Like the advent calendar activities we did at Christmastime, these daily prompts got me into the holiday spirit and gave Tory and I fun things to do together this month. WIN.

Here's our list of Easter activities:

1. Read the story of Jesus together
I've been thinking about ways to introduce the story of Easter to Tory. At 2 1/2, it's hard for her to understand the true meaning and I don't want to scare her by bringing up death or even bad/mean people. But, I also don't want her to grow up thinking Easter's just an excuse to eat chocolate bunnies. Aden received the Baby's First Bible box set for his baptism, so I pulled out The Story of Jesus and started reading it to Tory and Aden. It's short, simple and very appropriate for small children.

2. Make bunny cards for friends and family
Pinterest to the rescue! It took Tory and I several days to make handmade Easter cards for our loved ones. I'm not sure how Pinterest moms get their kids' painted handprints to show up perfectly on artwork, but that definitely doesn't work in our household. Plus, sometimes Tory has a weird sensory thing about her hand being covered in paint. For our cards, I traced Tory and Aden's handprints on the cards and then painted the shapes. (To get Aden's handprint, I traced his handprint once while he was sleeping, cut out the handprint shape and re-traced it onto all the cards). Tory decorated the cards with stickers and doodles.

3. Eat a duck-shaped sandwich
I let Tory use a cookie cutter to make a duck-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She loved it, and now requests "duck sandwiches" on the regular.

4. Eat bunny pancakes
Pinterest strikes again! Tory and I made bunny butt pancakes for breakfast one morning. We woke up to 9 1/2 inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground and I promptly decided we weren't going anywhere that day. Great day to make a fun breakfast.

5. Make an Easter craft
Grandma Janie, Auntie Lindsay and Tory make foam bunnies together. They were from a kit including buttons and shapes. Easy peasy.

6. Read Easter books
Some of our favorites: Duck and Goose: Here Comes the Easter Bunny and Here Comes Easter

7. Paint a bird house
Tory had a blast with this activity. I enjoyed it, too ... but was a little nervous about her using real paint on my dining room table. Luckily she was careful and I stayed close by for assistance. We talked about the birdies who will live in the bird house once we hang it in our backyard. (Although, let's be honest, I hope it doesn't attract real birds because they completely yuck me out).

8. Play with Easter eggs in the bathtub
Easiest thing ever, and Tory loved it. I dumped the bucket of plastic Easter eggs in the bathtub with her one evening and she had a blast filling up the eggs with water and dumping it on her head.

9. Bunny gel clings
I bought a few packs of bunny-themed gel clings (similar here) in the Dollar Spot section at Target a while back. Originally, I thought they might be a fun activity to do on the airplane on our trip to Cabo San Lucas, but the window was too far out of reach from Tory's car seat on the flight. So, I busted the gel clings out at home and let Tory go to town sticking them to our sliding glass door. Sure, my glass door is a mess from constant fingerprints, but what's new. Tory had a ball playing with them all month long. Great $1 investment.

10. Volcano Eggs
Borrowed this idea from my cousin, Jen, (seriously, she's such a fun mom!) and it was a big hit. I don't think Tory knew what a volcano was for reference, but who wouldn't love watching baking soda-covered eggs react with vinegar and "erupt" all over. I boiled the eggs and mixed the baking soda paint over nap time and had everything ready for Tory when she woke up one afternoon. Super fun activity.

11. Easter Egg Lunch
As seen on Pinterest ... I made Tory lunch one day using plastic Easter eggs as her "plate." Girlfriend was impressed! (Oh, I love how easy it is to impress a toddler). Seriously, mind explosion and it was easy to make, too. I deconstructed Tory's regular lunch to fill up the little eggs, so basically it was things she was already eating. (Deli turkey slice torn into pieces, a string cheese cut into cubes, slices of banana, a few raisins, Cheetos, and some shelled sunflower seeds). The only food she refused to eat were the sunflower seeds which, truthfully, was a long-shot anyway. "I don't like peanuts!" she said. Otherwise, Tory polished off every bit of her meal.

12. Paper Plate Chicks Craft
This craft was just OK. Tory painted a few paper plates yellow, but then we had to wait for the paint to dry so we could add eyes, a beak and legs. She lost interest by the time the plates were ready and I ended up throwing them away after they'd been sitting on my table for two days. Meh.

13. Make Egg Nest Treats
These little Easter treats turned out really cute, but they weren't exactly toddler-friendly. I guess I should I have read the recipe ahead of time, eh? Super simple to make though - chow mien noodles, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, creamy peanut butter and Cadbury Mini Egg candies. Tory helped me measure the ingredients and I did the melting of the marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate on the stovetop. We delivered a plate of treats to our cabin neighbors and brought some to Andi's family's Easter celebration and everyone loved them.

14. Eat Bunny-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls
Easiest breakfast ever. I popped a tube of cinnamon rolls, used four of the circles for the "bunny heads" and shaped the other four cinnamon rolls into "bunny ears." The highlighted recipe suggests adding raisins and almonds as facial decorations, but I kept it simple. If I hadn't slightly overcooked the cinnamon rolls in the oven, these would've been delicious.

15. Play-doh with Spring Shapes
'Nuff said. I broke out the Play-doh one morning along with some spring-shaped cookie cutters. Tory cut flowers, a church, bunny and eggs out of Play-doh.


I had a few more things planned like coloring an Easter cross, visiting the Easter bunny and playing a plastic Easter egg matching game, but we simply ran out of time. And that's okay! My goal in organizing all this was to simply find things for Tory and I to do, have fun celebrating together and interject the true meaning of Easter into conversation. We had a blast completing our Easter countdown calendar.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Letters to Aden: Five Months

Hello my little boy,

Are you really five months old? How is that even possible? Life with you is flying by so quickly.

And yet ... it's not. The past few weeks is when the exhaustion of sleepless nights and life with two small children has finally caught up to me. I am tired these days, thanks in part to your frequent nightly wake-ups and your desire to eat, eat, eat. It's not you, it's me - really. You're a little boy who is growing bigger and learning new things everyday. Irregular sleep and complete dependence on mama isn't anything out of the ordinary for a baby your age. The physically demanding parts of having an infant is wearing on me, that's all.

Speaking of sleep, this past month was pretty rough. You typically sleep in 2-3 hour increments and sometimes, especially while sleeping in your crib at night, wake up every hour or two. You still love your swing and sleep better in there, so I usually throw in the towel at some point during the night and move you from your crib to the swing just so we can all get some rest. I will say, you're trending in the right direction and within the last week have been sleeping in some four hours stretches to which I say THANK YOU and HALLELUJAH. Daytime naps are about an hour in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and a 20-minute power nap around dinnertime. I know sleep with get better as you continue to grow ... we just have to ride the wave a little longer.

One thing that's definitely not helping is your oh, so sensitive skin. The harsh Minnesota winter has been really hard on your skin, leaving it dry and chapped. I've now adopted a strict lotion regimen with you and have also been treating an itchy rash you've developed on your neck and chest. The pediatrician assures me your skin condition will improve with the changing seasons; I just hope he's right. You have a nasty habit of scratching yourself on your head, neck and legs. I'm not sure if it's because of your dry skin or just a nervous habit, but it's such a pain keeping you from harming yourself. I've been putting little mittens on your hands, but you've figured out how to pull those off with your mouth and you scream wildly if I put a hat on your head to prevent you from scratching your scalp. Poor buddy. I know it can't feel good, so I do the best I can to keep you comfortable. I hope this is a stage you outgrow very soon.

One nuisance that seems to have passed is acid reflux. You spit up far less than you did in your first months of life (although, you do still spit up occasionally). You seem more comfortable laying flat on your back than you did as a newborn and it's nice being able to put you down on the activity mat or a blanket to play. I've noticed the beginning stages of teething as you're a slobbery mess chewing on your hands, teething toys and anything else you can get in your mouth. No sign of a tooth popping through your gums just yet.

Physically, you've really changed this month. You like to grasp rattles and toys. I see your little neck emerging when you sit up now. You have better head control overall and can even sit for a second or two without much assistance. Your legs are becoming stronger. I pulled the Johnny Jump-Up out of storage so you can stand and bounce up and down. You do little baby sit-ups as you try desperately to lift yourself up from a laying to a sitting position. You're not rolling over yet, but you're close. We've been practicing tummy time and you've made great strides in lifting your head up while laying on your belly.

You continue to be such a happy, smiley baby. You have the biggest grin for me in the mornings and your entire face lights up when you see Daddy come home from work in the evenings. Best of all, you and Tory have developed a real fondness for one another. There's times you just can't get enough of her and other times she makes you mad as ever. Typical siblings! She's gotten so much better at being around gentle around you and often entertains you with toys and chatter. You watch her intensely, like you're so anxious to scoot across the floor and join in whatever toy she's playing. I can't wait to see the relationship unfold between you two.

This month we've really started to get a glimpse of who you're growing up to be. We call you our little lion because you have a funny growl when you're angry. Sometimes I'll set you down for a second and you start to protest immediately, like you know I'm going to walk away. I love listening to you blow raspberries or coo when I read you board books because it reminds me there's a little boy in there who's learning new things and growing bigger every day. I love you so much, Aden.