Friday, October 31, 2014

The Night of the Great Pumpkin

Happy Halloween!

Tory, Aden and I are visiting my parents in Nebraska this week while Andi is in Death Valley for work. We're so excited to spend Halloween with my family this year! I have fond memories of celebrating Halloween here as a child. My parent's small hometown is the quintessential place to trick-or-treat; it seems like the entire town gets into the spirit.

Last night, my sister and I took Tory, Aden and my nieces Brooke and Neeley to the annual Night of the Great Pumpkin event downtown. This event wasn't around when I was a kid, so I was anxious to check it out and stretch another Halloween activity out of Tory and Aden's costumes. My sister had gone before and said the downtown area would be swarmed with people, so we decided to get in / get out before the chaos truly began.

To kick-off our festive evening, my sister made Halloween sugar cookies and we set Brooke, Neeley and Tory up with spatulas and orange frosting to decorate their own pumpkin and bat cookies. It was a true mess and yielded zero consumable cookies as Tory sniffled, licked and spread frosting onto her cookies (she's battling a runny nose and cough this week) and Neeley ended up wearing more frosting than landed on her treats. But, the kids had so much fun decorating cookies. It'd definitely be worth doing again sometime.

Then, we cleaned up the mess and dressed the kids in their Halloween costumes. Tory is a "purple princess" this year, a costume she decided early on she wanted to be, and Aden is a little lion cub (Tory's hand-me-down costume from Halloween two years ago) which I thought was fitting since he grunts and roars all the time.

Neeley is going as Little Red Riding Hood this Halloween. My sister, Ashley, made Brooke's Elsa costume and I think it looks so fantastic. She was, by far, the best looking Elsa at the Halloween event last night.

We arrived at the Night of the Great Pumpkin event a few minutes before it began and had our choice of a free pumpkin for each child. The streets downtown were barricaded from traffic and the girls had fun running obstacles through all the pumpkins set out on the town's main street. 

We trick-or-treated from business to business, and collected candy in the kids' pumpkin buckets. Tory has trick-or-treating down pat this year, shouting "Trick-or-treat! Thank you!" to everyone she met. It's so fun having a child who really understands the meaning of holidays now. 

There were Halloween games, free food, balloon animals and face painting. Kids could get their picture taken by the local newspaper and it would appear in today's newspaper. 

There was a giant pumpkin in the center of it all that traveled from elementary school to elementary school earlier in the week collecting children's guesses for its total weight. We didn't stick around to hear the results, but headed back to my parents house after an hour of trick-or-treating for chili and cinnamon rolls. What a fun "pre-Halloween" to get us ready for the real thing tonight!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tory the Flower Girl

Andi's sister, Lindsay, got married a few weekends ago and Tory was asked to be the flower girl. Lindsay and her (now husband) Kyle were stars of the weekend, of course, but both my eyes were fixed on this adorable little girl (and her handsome daddy).

I was horrible at taking photos during the wedding events, mostly because I had my hands full with a now-mobile Aden, but I did get a few less-than-perfect iPhone photos. I'm anxious to see Lindsay's professional photographs of the wedding so I have some better mementos of Tory's (and Lindsay and Kyle's) big day. Tory was an adorable flower girl, and took her role as "official pedal thrower" very seriously. Lindsay gave Tory a Pinkalicious Flower Girl book and it's been on heavy reading rotation in our house ever since. 

Practicing at the rehearsal:

Lindsay did a nice job including Tory in the festivities and invited her and I to get our hair done with the wedding party on Saturday morning. This was honestly my favorite part of the weekend. It was SO FUN having a girl's morning with Tory. Not very often do I get to spend time with just her (actually, I can't remember the last time) and it felt so special walking hand-in-hand down the street to the salon in Uptown. The only thing I would've changed was that my appointment was at the same time as Tory's, so one of Lindsay's bridesmaids kept Tory company while I got my hair styled and I joined her as soon as I was done. Tory might have been the smallest client the salon had ever had, as all the girls oooh'd and ahhh'd over her adorableness.  

Tory's scared of loud noises (i.e.: the blow dryer) so I wasn't sure how washing and drying her hair would go, but she did awesome! 

Well, I don't think she loved that part ... but she didn't cry at least. 

The appointment took the better part of an hour and Tory sat so patiently in the salon chair as the stylist curled her hair.

After our appointments, we walked a few blocks down the street to pick up lunch to-go to bring back to Andi and Aden at home. If we wouldn't have had an important wedding to get to, I would have liked to stay out all afternoon with Tory, spoiling her with treats and a manicure. It was seriously so fun, (and easy to get around!) just the two of us. I think another Mommy/Tory "girl's day" is a must-do in the future.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day In The Life (The Weekend) - Fall 2014

I already wrote a Day in the Life post for fall 2014, but I wanted to document another day - a weekend day - when Andi was home with us. Sometimes I feel like I lead two separate lives; weekdays when I do the bulk of child-rearing and Andi works long hours at the office, and weekends when Andi and I hit pause and soak in as much family time as possible.

Here's a day in our (weekend) life - Saturday, October 25, 2014

Andi and Heather are both 33 years old
Tory is 3 years, 1 month old
Aden is 11 months old


The exact times are fuzzy, but somewhere around 1:00am Tory cries out "Mom! I have to potty!" from her bedroom on the middle-level floor of our lake cabin. I stumble out of bed (literally stumble; I may have had too much wine the night before as Andi and I were listening to old-school Jack Johnson and hanging pictures in our newly remodeled cabin. I was having blast-from-the-past memories listening to our favorite "first months of dating" songs, and we were both giddy with excitement over our new digs). I help Tory use the restroom and in a moment of weakness, let her crawl into bed with us. We fall back asleep quickly, but awake around 3:00am to Tory dream-crying, "I want butter!" (seriously, child?) and again around 5:00am to her shouting, "Daddy! Who is your best friend?" over and over. This child is delusional in the night (or possessed, or talks in her sleep ... or something!) because these middle-of-the-night outbursts are, sadly, a common occurrence.

Tory finally wakes up for the morning around 7:00am. She, Andi and I cuddle in bed and talk as we watch the sun rise outside our bedroom window. Straight ahead, we gaze upon a rustic scene of yellow sun peeking through the trees, and to the side of the bed see the sun rising over the lakefront.

Our beautiful (wonderful! delightful!) boy, Aden, is still sleeping in his room on the middle-level of the cabin. He's slept all night long. Love this trend! (Now, I wish his three-year-old sister would get the memo). Within minutes, around 7:30am, Aden starts cooing in his crib. We all get out of bed; Andi heads to the kitchen to make coffee, and Tory and I walk down to Aden's room to retrieve him.

7:40am: Andi makes breakfast for us in the kitchen while I lounge on the living room floor with the kids. We play with stacking cups and a plastic Solo cup, and Tory and Aden wrestle around on the living room floor. Tory's being especially rough with Aden this morning, and I have to call her down a few times. That's not like her at all. She whines at Andi's feet in the kitchen to let her help him make breakfast.

8:00am: The four of us sit down at the dining room table and have breakfast together. Andi made hash potatoes and banana pancakes, along with eggs and toast for the kids. We eat and drink coffee, and it's a really nice meal together.

8:30am: I sit on the living room floor and tackle each kid to get them dressed for the day. Aden's fussing, so I ask Andi to make me a bottle in the kitchen and bring it over to us. Aden and I curl up on the floor with the leather ottoman to my back, and watch the wildlife outside the window as he drinks his morning bottle. There's four white swans flying in pairs around the islands, circling and circling, and two brown ducks floating on the water's surface.

9:00am: I lay Aden down in his crib for a morning nap in his bedroom. Tory requests to watch "Mickey Christmas" on Netflix. I set her up with the show in our bedroom. Andi goes outside to mow the yard and I have a seriously rare few minutes of quiet in the house. I'm feeling super lazy and sit in the big oversized leather chair with coffee and my iPhone, and surf my favorite social media sites for a while.

10:15am: Aden wakes up from his nap, so I bring him back to the living room to play. Tory decides to have a snack of cheese and crackers. I love how peaceful it is at our cabin on the weekends. She's sitting nicely at the table, looking out the window as she eats.

The kids play together on the floor while we wait for Andi to finish yard work. 

11:30am: Andi and I decide to take everyone for a "truck ride," so we bundle up the kids in coats and hats. It's a gorgeous fall day in the high 50's, but it'll be chilly / windy with exposed skin in the Ranger ATV. Tory requests a trip through the woods and shouts to Andi as he drives, "What do we do if we see a branch? Run it over! What do we do if we see a puddle? Splash it!" Ha ha. Like father; like daughter.

Noon: We stop for lunch at Staples Lake Bar & Grill, not far from our lake cabin. I brought such a random mix of food to the cabin for us to eat. Typically, I meal plan and buy groceries and Andi does most of the cooking on the weekends, but I just didn't get to it this week. No worries, though. Lunch out to eat. Andi and I toast the weekend over a Spotted Cow beer (for her) and a rum and Coke (for him).

Staples Lake is a new establishment in our rotation at the cabin on the weekends. The restaurant recently switched owners and we're giving it a fair shake. Andi and I have eaten here twice now, and the food's been really good and the service, excellent. Today, the owner is so sweet with Tory and brings her a Crayola Color Wonders coloring book and markers to play with at the table. Tory is enamored with this lady, and proceeds to tell her all about our life including upcoming trips to visit friends, our weekend plans, and what she'll be for Halloween. Shy, Tory is not.

Roadies: Diet Coke, Root Beer and a sippy cup of water to-go.

1:00pm: After lunch, our crew loads back into the ATV and treks back to the cabin for afternoon nap time. Both kids fall asleep quickly after a bottle of formula for Aden and a few books for Tory. Andi's on the phone with Delta booking our Nebraska flights for Christmas, so after I'm done putting the kids down for nap, I curl up next to him on the couch. I'm so cozy snuggled under his arm with a warm throw blanket wrapped around me, I fall asleep for the first afternoon nap I can remember taking in a long time.

2:30pm: I wake up to hear Aden crying from his crib. I try to plug his pacifier back in his mouth, but he's having none of it. I check on Tory and she's still sleeping, so I bring Aden back upstairs. I find Andi snuggled up in our bed asleep, too! A quadruple nap achieved this afternoon; if that's not a perfect Saturday, I don't know what is.

The only ones awake now: a post-nap selfie.

3:15pm: Tory wakes up from her nap and shortly there-after Andi does, too. After much pleading by Tory, I agree to go downstairs to play toys with her in the lower level. We used to keep all the kids' toys in our upstairs living room, but now we've remodeled I'd like to keep the toy garbage out of sight. Of course, Tory doesn't want to play downstairs by herself so, thus far, my plan isn't working. While I'm down there, I decide to re-arrange the furniture and re-organize the toys. Aden plays in the pink Cozy Coupe car and Tory plays dress-up alongside me. Meanwhile, Andi is outside sucking up leaves.

4:30pm: Somewhere around this time, our cabin friends Oscar and Deanna stop by with their grown kids and their kids' significant others to see our new cabin updates. Andi makes everyone a cocktail and we catch up over drinks around the dining room table. We miss our friends at the lake so much! It's been a few weeks since everyone's been together.

5:30pm: Our friends leave, and I finish cleaning up the toy mess downstairs while Andi makes dinner. That's three meals I haven't cooked today, for the record. Man, I love weekends! Andi calls us all upstairs a few minutes later and plates us grilled chicken, scalloped potatoes and stuffing. It's kind of a smorgasbord dinner but again, I didn't bring much for groceries this weekend so Andi raided the cupboards and threw something together. Fine by me! Aden scarfs down pasta noodles, crackers, and sliced apples (no wonder he was flipping out a few minutes beforehand; the boy was hungry!) and Tory takes two bites of chicken before requesting butter and jelly toast - typical. I cave and make her toast, because I'm a slacker parent like that. No sense battling over food at the dinner table.

6:15pm: Andi and I tag-team dinner clean up. I am so not complaining because he made dinner, cleaned it up AND loaded the dishwasher, but this is totally the difference between Andi and I:

I pre-wash all dishes before loading them into the dishwasher because they never get quite clean enough otherwise. Also for my liking, all dishes must me loaded in an organized fashion (big plates and little plates together, all facing the same direction, etc.). Andi loads the dishwasher with plates and cups mixed together, and a baking dish of cheesy potatoes still caked onto the pan. Do I care? Nope.* He loaded the dishwasher, and I'm grateful for the help.

*Well, okay, I'm a little twitchy about it so I snap a picture and move on. Marriage = picking your battles, and accepting help wherever it's given.

6:30pm: Tory's got two-day-old yogurt in her hair and Aden's a mess from eating, so Andi offers to shower the kids. I agree to towel them off and dress them in pajamas if he'll wash them. We don't have a bathtub at the cabin, so one of us usually has to shower with the kids or sometimes they don't get a bath all weekend. Tonight, it's teamwork.

7:00pm: I set Tory up with a repeat showing of Mickey Christmas in the master bedroom, the Aden and I snuggle up on the couch as I feed him his bedtime bottle. Andi lounges in the sofa chair beside us. Aden is so tired after taking such a short nap this afternoon and falls asleep in my arms. I carry him downstairs to his bedroom and tuck him in for the night (all night, fingers crossed).

Andi and I chat together in the living room while Tory finishes watching her show. More kid quiet-time; a rarity, and so awesome.

7:30pm: Bedtime for Tory. She reads me a few of her books - a counting book, Minnie Garden Days and Minnie and Daisy's Day Out. She asks if I'll re-read her the last one in her bed before she goes to sleep. We head down to her bedroom together and discover we can't find Lambie, her beloved stuffed animal. Andi and I turn the cabin upside down looking for Lambie, dang it. Can't find that stuffed animal anywhere! I sneak into Aden's room and steal the Glo-Worm from his crib. I tell Tory that Aden said she could borrow it for tonight. Thankfully she agrees, and I'm shocked there wasn't more of a bedtime battle.

8:30pm: Andi and I lounge around in the living room by the fire; he reads a book on his Kindle iPhone app and I type up this blog post. We marvel over having an end table we can both reach to set our drinking glasses on while we hang out in the living room (while, ironically, Andi balances his whiskey glass on the arm of the chair). It really is the little things in life ....

9:00pm: Kids are still asleep in the beds. Andi falls asleep snuggled under a blanket in front of the fire. I finish blogging listening to music softly playing in the background. What an amazingly relaxing day as a family. Absolutely perfect!

Now, I'm about to wake Andi and invite him to crawl into our comfy bed where I'll read my book until I drift to sleep myself. Good-night!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Time for another installment of "The Funny Things Tory Says" ....


We were at the cabin a few weeks ago with our friends Josh and Krista, and their daughters Hannah and Kate. Tory and Hannah share a love / hate relationship with one another and play fabulously together ... well, until they don't anymore. It should also come as no surprise that Tory is the "leader" of the two girls. She likes to tell Hannah what to do and for the most part, Hannah follows orders.

On this day, Tory and Hannah were playing together in the backyard while the adults chatted nearby on the deck. The girls seemed to be having fun together as Tory directed Hannah to drag two plastic kids Adirondack chairs over to a big rock in the yard. They lounged in their pint-sized chairs with their feet propped up on the rock until suddenly Hannah stomped over to the deck and shouted, "No!" in tears. We asked Tory what was the matter and she said Hannah was mad because she didn't want to play "toenail shop" anymore. Apparently, Tory had directed Hannah to pretend to paint her toenails using a stick and Hannah had had enough of that business.

Just a few days earlier, I had taken Tory to get our first mother/daughter pedicure at a nail shop by our house. It must've made quite the impression on Tory because she was attempting to role play the scenario with her friend. I, personally, found this to be hilarious. Some kids pretend to cook in the kitchen or take their baby dolls for a walk (and Tory does those things, too), but the fact Tory decided to "play" pedicures with Hannah? Totally awesome, comical ... and truly, quite princess-y. She is 100% my daughter.


(To Andi at nap time one afternoon)

Tory: "Who stinks, me or you? Eww, I think it's you."


(After mastering potty-training success of the bowel variety)

Tory: "I must be poopy-trained!"


(Watching a Dora the Explorer commercial on television)

Tory: "Is this an 'on one' or an 'off one'?"

*She's still confused when television commercials play previews of her favorite shows.


(Me, responding to one of the questions posed in a television kids' show)

Tory (annoyed): "Mom! They can't hear you; they live in the T.V."

*Proper Tory pronunciation of T.V.: tee-bee


Me: "Tory, what would you like for lunch?"

Tory: "A duck sandwich would be lovely."

*To clarify, that's a regular PB&J sandwich cut into a duck shape, not actually a duck sandwich. 


(Following her Aunt Lindsay's wedding weekend where Tory served as flower girl)

Tory: "When Lindsay gets married next day, can I be the flower girl?"

*I try to explain to Tory that people typically only marry once and Lindsay won't be having another wedding, but she refuses to take 'no' for an answer. I finally agree that, sure, at Lindsay's next wedding she can be the flower girl.


We saw my brother, Adam, recently during a visit to the lake cabin over Tory's birthday weekend. We don't see Adam often because he lives in Nebraska and is a young 20's-something guy with more pressing things to do than hang out with family all the time. Anyway, Adam is always sweet with Tory and helped her reach a helium birthday balloon that had floated to the ceiling. At 6'4", Adam's height must've WOW'd Tory because she now refers to him as the biggest guy she's ever known.

Tory (to me): "When I get huge like my Uncle Adam, I can wear shoes like you."


I was unloading the dishwasher the other night and dropped one of Andi's bar glasses from a high shelf. It hit the floor and shattered in a million pieces, one of which sliced a huge gash in the top of my foot. It didn't hurt much at the time but bled like crazy, so I hopped over to the Johnny Jump-Up to contain Aden while I tackled the mess. Tory was pre-occupied in the next room eating her dinner and watching Dora; I didn't think she even noticed what was happening in the kitchen. A few minutes later, Andi walked in the door to complete chaos: blood and glass all over the floor, a limping wife and a screaming baby in the baby gadget. He cleaned up the mess while I tended to Aden and my foot, and Tory continued to go on eating, un-phased, in the next room.

Cut to the next day as Tory, Aden and I were driving home from preschool. Tory says to me frankly, "I told Miss Janna you cut your foot on your wine glass."

Um, what?

Kid, that's not what happened! Truly. It was a bar glass, and it was empty. I was unloading the dishwasher! Alright, I do enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings so I can see where Tory might be confused. But, seriously, no alcohol involved.

I think we're entering into that stage in parenting where no household story is kept secret. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Letters to Aden: 11 Months

Hello my little boy,

You are 11 months old now, and this is the first time I didn't write to you on your monthly "birthday." It's so unlike me; I'm usually right on top of those things but somehow the 19th of this month snuck up on me. I started brainstorming ideas for your first birthday party a few weeks ago, but I can't seem to gather enough steam to start menu planning and crafting party decorations. Maybe I'm in denial about this being your very last month of babyhood. It doesn't seem possible.

One thing reminding me of your impending birthday is how your looks are changing. I forgot about this stage of infancy around 11 or 12 months of age where suddenly a little baby's face doesn't look so babyish anymore. This is you these days -- blond hair now covering the top of your head, your cheeks thinner and face elongating. As your mom, it's bittersweet to see. I love watching you change and grow, but it also makes me sad to say good-bye to my tiny baby boy.

This month, you're more animated than ever. You love to play peek-a-boo behind books or with your favorite blue blanket draped over your head and let out the happiest giggle when your face is revealed. You're communicating with us more everyday, and often push the baby bottle of milk away from your mouth so you can chat with me. I'm officially calling "hi" as your first word. It's funny because this was Tory's first word, too, so it goes to show how often it's used in our household. You'll say "hi!" when I enter into your room in the morning, or say "hi" when you see your reflection in the mirror. I can't quite tell if you're saying "mama" yet. You'll cry "mama mama mama" if I plop you down on the living room floor and walk away to do something in the next room. It could be just "ma ma ma ma" sounds of gibberish though, so I'm not officially calling it as the word "mama" just yet. Your favorite sound to make is "baa!" and almost everything is "baa!" when you're really excited about something, or "baaaa" when you're melting down and ready for a bottle of milk.

The biggest news of the month is your mobility. You finally started crawling - really crawling on all fours - about a week ago. It took you a long time to learn to move your arms and legs in coordinating motion to get around from place to place. Before that, you'd do some sort of half turn / sit / scoot to move a few feet at a time. Now that you're crawling on all fours, you are EVERYWHERE and into every thing. Toys? Who needs toys? I leave you down on the ground for a minute and you're into the dog's bowls or pulling on a lamp cord. You do like some toys - Tory's, of course - and find your way over to her dollhouse and the play kitchen. The other day I was cooking dinner in the kitchen and I heard a CRASH of plastic toys hit the hardwood floor. You pulled out the play kitchen drawer of plastic food and dumped it all over the living room. Thanks, buddy.

You also gained your 5th tooth this month - the lateral incisor - on the bottom left side of your mouth. Turns out, you're one of those mythical kids who cuts teeth without many symptoms. I'll notice your demeanor being a bit fussy one day and glance in your mouth to find a new tooth in there. Huh. No up-all-nights, diaper rash and constant fussiness for weeks like your sister's tell-tale signs as an infant? Wow. I have to say, life is much easier when those teeth just pop in unannounced.

One area you've greatly developed in the last month is eating. You LOVE food, buddy! Your fine-motor skills of pinching small pieces of food is on-point, which assists you in feeding yourself. You like green beans, peas, carrots, buttered noodles, applesauce, mandarin oranges and crackers the most. You also make a huge mess when you eat, smearing food in your hair and on your face at almost every meal. Let's just say you're taking your fair share of baths these days.

Other favorites of yours are playing with balls, reading books, watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Tory and snuggling with your favorite blue blanket. It's fun seeing you develop a fondness for reading, and I soak up every moment you're sitting on my lap and reach for a book for me to read to you.

We started music class this past month, and you absolutely love it. I'm seriously surprised how engaged you are during class. You shout "baa!" with your hands above your head during songs we sing, and all the mothers in class just smile and laugh at your cuteness. We also took a trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin in the past month and it was your first time being on the North Shore / seeing Lake Superior.

Aden, you bring so much joy to our lives and we love you so much. Happy 11 months, baby boy. Here's to celebrating the last few days of infancy and looking forward to the big O-N-E in a few week's time.