Friday, January 30, 2015

4/52 (A Weekly Photo Series)

Four weeks in, this weekly photo series is doing exactly as I'd hoped: telling the story of our lives one photo at a time. I have several favorite photographs from the week, and some of them sum up Tory and Aden's personalities and individual interests perfectly. 


Tory loves to play dress-up. Most days, she's twirling around the living room wearing a Cinderella ball gown, plastic high heels, bracelets, necklaces and a tiara. I spied her sprawled out in her overstuffed chair over the weekend in a pose that flashed me straight to her teenage years. 

Every single toy we own is in heavy rotation as we play indoors during the wintertime. These hand puppets from our KoalaCrate subscription box have been a big hit lately with both Tory and Aden.

Tory learned about the letters "T" and "I" at preschool this week and because T is the first letter of her name, she got to wear a special paper crown at school. Tory's favorite days at school are the ones she's singled out as a special person in the group. On this day, Tory was not only designated the "leader" for the day, but also had the privilege of wearing the special letter crown. She was in heaven. 

Oh, Aden. This boy has my heart.

With every passing day, Aden becomes more curious about the world around him. One of his favorite things lately is this ride-on Planes toy he received for his birthday. He recently learned how to move the plane back and forth like a rocking horse, and squeals with delight when he's taking it for a ride. 

Busted! This boy will not stop eating dog food. What am I going to do with him?!

I remember Tory obsessively climbing through this end table as a toddler, and Aden is following suit. It wouldn't be such a big deal except Aden cries for help about a million times a day when he's stuck and can't get back out.

Aden isn't walking yet, but he's very, very close. He pulls up to his feet and cruises along furniture, walks easily with assistance and can even stand for a few seconds by himself. Instead of crawling to get around, he's started hopping around on his knees like a bunny to get from place to place. It's the funniest thing to see. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Fish Story

It's no secret Tory is a terrible sleeper. As in, the worst of the worst. Andi and I would've thrown her back long ago if she wasn't so darn cute because the child does not sleep well. I think Tory's slept through the night (in her own bed, not a peep until morning) only a handful of times in her young 3 1/2 years of life. It doesn't help that we bounce between living at home during the week and staying at the lake cabin on the weekends. Essentially, we're "traveling" every week of the year, so it's difficult for the kids to settle into one place.

Tory's sleep issues have varied over the years from bedtime battles, to outcries during the night, to too-early wake ups in the morning. She's never been good at soothing herself to sleep, and occasional nightmares don't help either. Over the years, Andi and I have tried every sleep training method imaginable to change Tory's habits. We've read parenting books, practiced cry-it-out techniques, implemented a sticker chart, used a light-up kids clock, promised new toys, etc. Nothing has consistently worked.

Over the years, my body has adapted to irregular sleep. I like sleeping; of course I'd like more of it ... but I can function on six hours of solid zzz's now. Andi is a different story. He works long hours running a business so he needs a rested mind to function properly, and he also gets sick easily when he's tired and stressed.

About a month ago, Andi and I were getting the kids ready for bed when my husband dropped a bombshell: "Tory, if you can sleep through the night for 20 nights, I'll buy you a fish. All night long, every night, for 20 nights. Think you can do it?"

Of course, Tory agreed. Meanwhile, I was across the room shooting dagger eyes at Andi because, dude, it is against every law of parenting to promise a new pet without discussing it first. Three guesses who'll be the person caring for a new fish... not that it's terribly difficult, but still. It's another thing to clean up around here.

"Don't, worry. She'll never make it 20 nights," Andi said.

Well, guess what?

It turns out, Tory is very capable of sleeping through the night when she sets her mind to it. Every night before bed, Andi reminded Tory about their deal and asked her what would happened if she woke up in the night. "Start over. No fish," Tory would chant in response.


Tory even held up her end of the bargain during weekend nights at the lake cabin. She's never (ever, ever, ever) slept through the night there before, and suddenly staying in her bed was no big deal. I couldn't believe it.

When Andi returned Sunday after working away from home last week, we made a family field trip to the pet store to bring home a fish called "Princess."

Tory selected a castle fit for underwater royalty. She was so excited about the whole experience.

Introducing the newest member of our family: "Princess Fish."

Tory's pretty excited about her new fish friend, and asks to feed him (it's actually a male Betta fish; don't tell Tory that) about a dozen times a day.

The big question is whether Tory has continued to sleep through the night after she got her fish, and the answer is yes... mostly. Andi's new threat deal is the fish moves from Tory's room to Aden's room if she wakes up in the night. It seemed to work earlier this week, but last night Tory called out several times for us. We'll see what happens this weekend at the cabin.

I'm skeptical of any method's staying power, but I do hope the last 20+ days created a sleeping pattern with Tory. If nothing else, I thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks of restfulness.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Weekend at Home

The kids and I enjoyed a surprisingly lovely weekend at home. We had no plans to visit the cabin as Andi worked an event in St. Paul from Monday - Sunday. I suppose I could've packed up the kids and taken them myself, but it always feels silly to go there without Andi. I'm not sure why exactly. To me, solo parenting Saturdays and Sundays aren't much different than regular days of the week, so I do what I normally do -- fill our time with outings and playtime at home.

I promised Tory we'd go for donuts Saturday morning, so I checked Yelp! to find a bakery in our area. On the rare weekend we're in the Twin Cities, we usually stop by a little French bakery not far from our neighborhood. I heard recently, however, it closed so I set off to find a new place to fill our bellies full of pastries and coffee. I bundled Tory and Aden into winter coats and boots, and drove to an old-fashioned donut shop I found a few miles away. (Look at me go, discovering new places to eat in the area! How very "Andi" of me). When I pulled up to the bakery, of course, I noticed a hand-written sign on the door that read "Cash Only." Great. I never carry cash, so I rummaged in my wallet until I found enough coins to buy Tory a donut. We walked inside the bakery only to discover there were no table and chairs -- only a pastry counter with two little old ladies working behind it. I was determined to give the kids a fun breakfast outing, so we took Tory's donut to-go and ate at a nearby coffee shop.

It was still ridiculously early and the "how in the world am I going to entertain these children all morning" panic was setting in, so we cruised by Target for a morning shopping trip. Turns out, Target before 9:00am is the jam. We practically had the store to ourselves, so Tory, Aden and I roamed the aisles and looked at toys and shoes and purses and dollar spot items at a snail's pace. Tory was cracking me up pretending to talk to Grandma Janie on her toy cell phone. "Oh, hi Grandma! Are you having a good time in Cow-ifornia (California)?"

Aden, cheese-ing it up in his sister's sunglasses ... 

I've never gone to Target and had such a fun time spending so little money. We laughed and meandered around with zero amounts of regular weekday stress over buying groceries in crowds of people. 

My sister-in-law Lindsay invited me to a Soup Swap Saturday afternoon, so I hired a babysitter for a few hours so I could attend. It was such a fun, low-key party and I came home with several quarts of soup to stock my freezer. Win/win!

The party concept was simple: each guest prepared 4 quarts of soup, plus a little extra for sampling. We drew numbers and participated in a snake draft to pick the soups we'd take home. I made my favorite Tomato Tortellini recipe and other guests brought homemade Vegetable Soup, Chili, Chicken Wild Rice, Creamy Curried Cauliflower, Roasted Corn Chowder and Booya Pazole. Sometimes it feels like I'm the one always hosting parties, so it was a nice change to show up and enjoy conversation with some of Lindsay's favorite friends without doing all the party prep work. 

Sunday morning, Tory, Aden and I paid a visit to Andi's Grandma Marion. We try to get over to her house to visit every few weeks, and there's usually a crowd of family at her house whenever we go. On this day, Andi's cousin Megan was there with her three-year-old son Connor and her newest addition -- three-week-old Baby Colton. Tory was smitten with the baby and it melted my heart watching my sweet girl hold the baby so gently.

Andi joined us at Grandma Marion's house a bit later, and our family was reunited once again. To say the kids were excited to see Andi was an understatement. They were so, so happy to have Daddy home...and I was, too. Later that evening, Tory was rewarded with the newest floppy member of the family ...

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Currently ...

Reading: "The Last Letter From Your Lover" by Jojo Moyes. I'm only a few pages into the book and keep falling asleep reading it before bed, so I essentially have to start over the next day. I tend to get hooked by a certain author and end up reading every one of their available books until I land on a dud and move onto someone else. I just finished "The Girl You Left Behind" and "One Plus One" which I loved, loved, loved.

Watching: Revenge, which is the only television show I've got a vested interest in following. It's got just the right amount of drama, romance and suspense for my taste.

Drinking: Apothic Red. I recently implemented a "one glass a night" rule for myself because I feel myself slipping down a dangerous slope of drinking too much wine in the evenings.

Writing: in a One Line a Day journal since the beginning of 2015. I'm only a few weeks in, but I hope I can keep up with it.

Thinking: about vacation plans; our trip to Sayulita next month, a girl's weekend with my sister-in-law Lindsay this spring, weekend visitors at the cabin in 2015, visiting the new babies I know being born this summer.

Listening to: "Saturday Morning Coffee" on Pandora. It's my new favorite.

Wondering: what 2015 will bring? I have this feeling lately like our family is floating to the top of a giant waterfall, ready to plunge down the other side. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but it's exhilarating and scary all at the same time.

inspired by The Daily Tay

Friday, January 23, 2015

3/52 (A Weekly Photo Series)

Last Sunday at the cabin, Andi gave me a quick lesson in shooting outdoors with his long range Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, and it was loads of fun learning tricks of the trade in a new environment. Natural light! Gorgeous backgrounds! Very different than shooting indoors as I have been the last two weeks. I took some adorable photographs of our family playing in the snow and shared many of them in my Winter Fun at the Lake Cabin post earlier this week, but here's a few others:

My guy; he's usually the one behind the lens so snapshots of Andi are few and far between. It was fun taking photos of him doing things that he loves at the cabin; putzing around in the Ranger, checking ice fishing tip-ups on the lake, tinkering around with this or that.

Andi, Lindsay and Kyle had a harmless snowball fight with Tory on the lake Saturday morning. Tory squealed with delight the entire time. You could tell she was half-thrilled by adrenaline and half-nervous they were going to pelt her in the face. Ha!

I've looked at these photographs over and over this week and smile every time because I truly feel blessed to live the life I do surrounded by these wonderful people.


I'm also thankful for the loving relationship Tory and Aden share. I know I sound like a broken record, but it amazes me how well these two get along. Tory's so patient in sharing toys or showing Aden how things work, and he watches her with the greatest admiration.

It's funny how at 14 months old, Aden has already perfected the "cheese!" face when he catches sight of a camera in the room. Roughly three more years until I get a natural smile out of him again. 

I snapped this photo of Tory sitting on my bed, flipping through pages of a Fancy Nancy book. We're both obsessed with Fancy Nancy these days, and various titles are on repeat at every story time. I think they're adorable to read, and get a kick out of Tory using words like "unique" and "brilliant" in everyday conversation. Too cute! 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day In The Life - Winter 2015

Linking up with Navigating the Mothership to document A Day In The Life. I chose Monday, January 19 which turned out to be a very true representation of our life these days. (It was also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, or "Mayor Day" as Tory kept calling it, but since I don't work outside the home and Tory doesn't have school on Mondays, it was a pretty average day for us).

Tory is 3 years, 4 months old
Aden is 14 months old 


3:45am: Aden cries out from his crib, so I get up and make him a bottle in the kitchen. I bring Aden back into bed with me, feed him the bottle and return him back to his bedroom. He usually wakes up once at some point during the night and he's downright ticked if I don't feed him. I'm not sure if he's really hungry, or if a bottle helps soothe him ... but I don't really care. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes.

4:00am: Unfortunately, I've clocked enough hours of consecutive sleep for my body to think it's time to wake up for the day. So, I use the restroom and check Instagram / Facebook / Feedly on my phone which doesn't help convince my brain I should be sleeping. I set my phone back on the nightstand and snuggle up next to Andi in an attempt to lull myself back to dreamland. Listening to him breathe is quite comforting, but it doesn't help me fall back to sleep. 

4:45am: I decide to get up for the day and head to the kitchen with my computer, cell phone and water glass in hand. I make a cup of coffee and sit down at the dining room table to blog. I remember how lonely it felt to be awake in the middle of the night just after Tory was born, but now I kind of like it. Inside our house is calm and peaceful. I notice a few lights on in the neighborhood and wonder what those people are doing right now.     

5:30am: Andi sleepily stumbles down the hallway and looks surprised to see me awake. We greet each other, then he goes downstairs to shower and dress for the day. Meanwhile, I drink my coffee and leave comments on blog posts I'd read earlier in the week via iPhone.

6:00am: Andi comes back upstairs dressed in a heavy winter coat, snow pants, stocking hat and boots. He tells me good-bye before heading out the door for work. He won't be home until Sunday afternoon as he's producing a big outdoor event in St. Paul this week/weekend.

6:30am: Tory is awake so I help her to the restroom, then turn on Peppa Pig in my bedroom so she can wake up with a morning cartoon. This girl doesn't do mornings, so it's best to let her slowly gain her bearings, and to get some food into her belly stat. I grab two yogurt tubes as well as my laptop, and bring them to the bedroom where I snuggle next to Tory in bed. One quick glance at the video baby monitor tells me Aden is still sleeping soundly.

7:15am: Aden's awake, so I change his diaper and take him to the kitchen with me to start breakfast. Aden has a kid-sized bowl of Cheerios with rice milk, hot oatmeal mixed with applesauce and 1/2 can of diced mangoes. This boy can EAT! Tory has 1/2 of a waffle (in addition to those two yogurt tubes from earlier), but leaves her apple slices with peanut butter untouched. "My belly is so full, see?" she says, sticking out her stomach. I make some oatmeal for myself and mix in diced apple and peanut butter, snagging bites over the course of the next hour while I clean up the breakfast mess, load the dishwasher, wash baby bottles, etc. Meanwhile, Aden is creating even more mess by pulling out all the plastic kids' plates and cups from the cabinet.

8:30am: I attempt to take non-iPhone photos of our DITL today, but the settings on Andi's big camera are still programmed for outdoor use from the weekend. I'm in the very early stages of learning how to use this camera, so I text him to see what the camera should be set on but he doesn't respond. I look up video tutorials on YouTube, but I'm not very successful in finding an answer. I fall down a rabbit-hole of tinkering with the camera settings until the kids' demands for my attention force me to put the camera away.

9:00am: I get Aden dressed, change his diaper (again), make my bed, unpack my suitcase from the cabin this past weekend, fold and put away clean clothes and get Tory and I dressed for the day. I'm tempted to pull on leggings and a comfy t-shirt, but talk myself into wearing my new striped top and skinny jeans. While I'm orbiting around the bedroom doing other things, Aden takes the opportunity to mess with the television sound system and unroll extra toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. He is such a handful these days, and I'm constantly bouncing from one mess to another all. day. long. I attempt to re-direct him with a book, but it's probably obvious how long that holds his attention. Tory asks me to help her move the pieces on her daily calendar, so I do so and take the time to tell her a bit about MLK, Jr. Day.

10:00am: Aden's starting to fuss, so I make him a bottle and lay him down for his morning nap. Once he's in bed, I pick up toys in the living room and make another sweep through the kitchen and dining room to pick up clutter since breakfast. I'm hosting a mid-day neighborhood playdate for Aden in about an hour and even though I know the toddlers will get all the toys out again, I don't want it to look messy in my house when the mothers arrive.

10:15am: Aden's crying from his crib which ... never happens. "Mom! My brofer's cryyyyying!" Tory shouts at the top of her lungs. So much for silently hoping he'd lay back down in his crib. Tory darts into Aden's room before me and he is super UPSET to see her. I guess he's not interested in taking a nap this morning? This should make for a fun play date with friends ...

I pick Aden up from this crib and take him to the kitchen for a snack. He gets Gerber Puffs in his high chair. There's no way he'll last through a mid-day playdate if he's tired and hungry. Tory's whining she's hungry too, and grabs a yogurt tube out of the fridge. Then, she high-tails it my bedroom to watch a show until the babies arrive.

11:00am: Our play date friends arrive, and we all sit around the living room playing and talking. I recently learned through our neighborhood mom's group there are several babies in the area who are the same age as Aden. A few of us thought it'd be fun for the babies and the mothers to become more acquainted so we arranged an informal get together at my house. It's no surprise Tory steals the show when she emerges from her bedroom wearing head-to-toe princess garb. The other mothers (who both have boys) just gush over her. 

12:15pm: The neighbors leave and I quickly throw together some lunch for Tory and Aden. My kids morph into demons if they are not fed by Noon everyday. Tory has a hot dog and mandarin orange slices for lunch; Aden has green beans and oranges, too.

12:45pm: Aden is falling apart at the seams, so I make him a bottle, feed him and lay him down for a nap in his crib. He goes right to sleep, which I suppose is the one benefit of a morning nap-resisting child. I clean up lunch, then Tory and I curl up in my bed to read books before her nap. I'm making silly faces into my camera as I try to get a picture of us lying there together until Tory says, "Moooom! Just read!" Fine then. We read two Fancy Nancy books and My Pets (a ridiculous dumb lift-the-flap book which I despise and Tory loves).

1:25pm: I lay next to Tory and pretend to go to sleep so she will too. After a bit of fidgeting, she's asleep in 10 minutes. Double nap from the children! This never seems to happen anymore as Tory moves closer and closer to dropping her nap all together.

I use my quiet nap time to eat a bowl of re-heated lasagna soup and move/organize photos on our Time Capsule drive.

3:00pm: Still editing and organizing photos from the last few months -- seriously, such a tedious job -- and the kids are still asleep. I can't believe it.

3:30pm: Tory wakes up from her nap in a surprisingly good mood and says, "I was wondering if you wanted to make a craft with me?" How could I say no to an adorable request like that? She requests a "queen craft" so we decide to practice cutting circles, triangles and squares out of construction paper and glueing them together to make a queen.

4:00pm: Aden wakes up fussy from his nap, so we cuddle for a bit and then everyone play toys together on the living room floor. Tory's twirling around wearing her Cinderella ball gown, as per usual.

5:00pm: Wine & PJ time. I change into leggings and a t-shirt and start dinner. Tory requests chicken strips, and I serve her meal with sliced pears and a Laughing Cow cheese and crackers. Aden gets buttered noodles, pears and green beans. I usually make it to the grocery store on Mondays but due to the play date and long afternoon naps, I didn't get there today hence the sparse dinner selections.

5:30pm: I clean up the kids' dinner mess and herd everyone into the bathtub. Last week, I refreshed our supply of bathtub toys, so Tory and Aden are eager as ever to bathe in the evenings.

6:00pm: I call my parents on FaceTime to chat. The kids bounce around the living room entertaining Nana and Papa, and I fill my parents in on our lives over the past few days.

7:00pm: We say good-bye to my parents, then I make Aden a bottle for bedtime. I feed him, lay him down and he goes right to sleep. After Aden's in bed, I make one more run through the kitchen and living room to put away toys for the night. It makes me smile when I come across Tory's dollhouse people set up for dinnertime. Meanwhile, Tory's in her bedroom cleaning up and she proudly announces she's put away all of her toys by herself. I take a peek into her room and she's done a really nice job. Proud of her for helping!

7:30pm: Tory and I snuggle in my bed and read bedtime stories. She tells me she misses her dad, and I suggest we send him a video from my iPhone. I record the video and send it, then Andi calls a few minutes later on FaceTime to talk. Tory and I chat with him before finishing up her bedtime stories.

8:30pm: I take Tory to the restroom one last time, then tuck her into bed. She asks to look at a book that has a picture of her and Andi at the lake when she was about Aden's age. It's tugging on my heartstrings how much she's missing him tonight.

8:45pm: I pop some popcorn for my dinner, crawl into bed and watch a few DVR'd episodes of Mike & Molly before turning off the light and calling it a night.


My day by the numbers:

Number of diapers changed: 6
Number of books read: 7
Number of bottles washed: 5
Number of times I picked up toys in the living room: 3
Number of yogurt tubes Tory consumed: 4

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winter Fun at the Lake Cabin

Andi's sister Lindsay and her husband Kyle joined us at the lake cabin this past weekend and together we enjoyed one of the best winter weekends this season. It was a good mix of relaxation and fun outdoors in the warm weather we've been having ("warm" being a relative term, of course, as temperatures were in the mid 30's).

Lindsay and Kyle arrived at the cabin shortly after we did on Friday night and we all spent the evening lounging around the living room, playing toys with the kids. Saturday morning, Andi made everyone omelets for breakfast while Tory roped Lindsay and I into a competitive game of Chutes and Ladders (or "Slides and Chutes" as Tory calls it), all before 9:00am. Then, we packed up snacks and supplies for lunch and dressed in our winter gear to spend the day ice fishing and playing outside on Pipe Lake. I brought along walking tacos, pickle roll-ups and carrots and celery sticks which turned out being the perfect eats for inside the ice house.

These two make everything into a race these days, and it's so adorable. Down the hallway at home. Through the snow on the lake. On this day they started behind a line drawn with Andi's boot in the snow, so obviously it was very official.

Aden was a grump by lunchtime, so I took him back to the cabin for a nap while Andi, Tory, Lindsay and Kyle stayed in the ice house to do more fishing. Sadly, they weren't catching much so they packed it up around dinnertime. After Tory and Aden were in bed, Lindsay and Kyle made us homemade White Queso Chicken and Rice Soup for dinner and the four of us enjoyed a quiet, relaxing evening together.

Sunday was filled with more outdoor fun. Andi took Tory, Lindsay and Kyle ice fishing on nearby Staples Lake in the morning while I stayed back at the cabin with Aden. I learned my lesson from the day before and decided to let Aden nap at the cabin vs. battling a tired, cranky baby (toddler? GAH!) all morning. The crew came back around lunchtime and we grilled hot dogs and hobo potatoes at the cabin. Then, Andi built a bonfire in the backyard and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the snow.

It was the perfect conditions for building a snowman, and I do believe this was Tory and Aden's first one. Tory properly named him/her "Princess Olaf." We won't be back to the lake cabin for two weeks so I hope it's still standing upon our return.

Such a fun weekend at the lake!