Monday, December 26, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#221-230

Thankful (for):

221.  A new Christmas Eve tradition started, that of Marty opening his birthday gift from me (nearing or close to midnight) while the babies are asleep and we can be alone.
222.  Eating like royalty on Christmas Day -- though next year I'm definitely backing off the mimosas in the morning, ha!
223.  Church service on Christmas Eve, closing with candlelight and singing of carols, everyone wearing red and green and white and just feeling the communal warmth and love and excitement.
224.  Getting to hear "The Hallelujah Chorus" in aforementioned church service.
225.  Lovely gifts from my husband -- robe, fuzzy socks, perfume, sweater (my first from Anthropologie, woot!!!), and Agatha Christie's autobiography.
226.  Reading today from aforementioned book this line of remembrance AC had about her mother (my hope is to be a mom like this!):
Something else came to me then, besides the joy of [my bird's] return, the strength of my mother's love and understanding when there was trouble.  In the black abyss of misery, holding tight to her hand had been the one comfort.  There was something magnetic and healing in her touch.  In illness there was no one like her.  She could give you her own strength and vitality.
227. A Starbucks gift card from my brother-in-law!
228.  The absolute, unmitigated delight my children experienced opening their presents.  Who needs gifts for yourself when there is a child's joy to partake in???
229.  The fact that the most popular present of the day was a $4 flashlight from Will's stocking.  The runner-up was a $14 play cell phone for Lucy.  Isn't this always true with kids?
230.  The quiet calm of the day after Christmas; getting the chance to start looking forward to a new year and new beginnings.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Menu

~Christmas Eve~
Sausage Party Melts
(a long-ago favorite of my late mother-in-law's)
Spinach, Mushroom, and Red Pepper Strudel

~Christmas Day~
French Toast Casserole with Praline Topping
Thick-Sliced Smoked Bacon

Prime Rib Roast
Creamy Sea Scallop Bake
Au Gratin Potatoes
Crisp Green Salad

Sugar Cookies with a toast of Bailey's for the grown-ups

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Three Years of Santa Visits

Marty and I are *still* laughing about our visit with Santa today.  Check out the montage:

Year 1:  Happiness!  Santa is great!

Year 2:  Dodged a bullet with a sleeping Lucy, bribed Will with a sucker.  Decent shot.

Year 3:  The Santa visit which will live in infamy.
Now *that* is Christmas awesomeness, y'all! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#211-220

Thankful (for):

211.  Visits from my parents, even when they're too short. 
212.  Tylenol suppositories for little ones who are burning up with fever and can't keep oral medicine down.
213.  Big Christmas gifts for my kids from their Nana and PaPa -- a pink and white "tea" table for Lucy, an art easel/table for Will.
214.  The relationships that my kids have with their grandparents -- my poor Lucy was miserable most of the weekend but was clearly enjoying snuggle time with her PaPa; Will kept coming into the kitchen ("Nana, [where] are you?") for hugs and kisses from his Nana.
215.  A recipe for "Creamy Scallop Bake" that I copied out of Paula Deen's new Southern Cookbook Bible -- a present for my mom.  I adore sea scallops, so a Happy Christmas to me, to me!
216.  The quietness and calm of getting back into routine on Monday morning.
217.  Not one, but TWO coupons for -- thus a chance to get our Christmas cards ordered and shipped here in time to get them out and arrived at their destinations by Christmas Eve.  (I was totally flailing on this and was in serious doubt I'd get it done, but a couple things came together and I'm so glad I can send out cards!)
218.  TONS of new words from Will -- castle, umbrella, town(!) -- and a few *phrases* too -- "stand up," "big boy," "there you are!"
219.  Finding "The Polar Express" on sale at Target for $7.99 -- a beloved favorite in my family.
220.  Watching my children get caught up in the wonder and magic and beauty of Christmastime!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Series 35: About Blogs

Installment #2
20 things you'll never see me do on this blog:
  1. Refer to my husband by his initials or in any contrived, hyper-cutesy, blog-lingo way.  His name is Marty.  I will call him Marty.
  2. Behave as though my life, my words, my name, or my blog are on their way to becoming some sort of brand.  I'm just Becky, and this is just a blog.
  3. Go from one single-digit size to a smaller single-digit size and talk about "my weight loss journey."
  4. Speak as though my wedding was some kind of social event.  Two people got married and shared that day with their loved ones.  It was beautiful, happy, and intimate...and probably not worthy of a magazine spread.  Yet I still manage to go on with my life...
  5. Post pictures of myself posing in front of my bathroom mirror to show you all the outfits I'm simply agonizing over.  Complete with smiley or pouty faces.
  6. Discuss my Louis Vuitton bag collection.
  7. Create an inspiration board for a 2-year-old's birthday party.
  8. Sell you stuff.  I tried ads but they failed because I made them teeny-tiny and/or hid them at the very bottom of the page.  Turns out I hate ads on my own site just as much as I do on others' (although if you're raising money for a sick child or for an adoption, by all means...).
  9. Encourage you to buy that $160 sound machine so your infant will sleep better. 
  10. Talk endlessly about my life in great detail and then every so often, post about how you can't possibly know me at all.
  11. Attempt to proselytize you to any kind of parenting "method."  Or sincerely consider that you should give up the cost of a month's worth of diapers to pay for a web seminar on nighttime parenting.  Because clearly nobody's been able to figure this out on their own in all the centuries of human history.
  12. Share links to blogs that would make you feel inferior or inadequate in any way.
  13. Use crossed-out words to make me sound funnier.  Because I suck I'm not good at it.  (Although I heartily admire those who are.)
  14. Show you images of customized stationery I bought.  For my infant.
  15. Pretend to be perfect.  Then deny my (pretense to) perfection by pointing out that I had a bad hair day.
  16. Write an entire post about aforementioned hair.
  17. Insult children's clothing that says "I love Mommy" or the like. 
  18. Promote any kind of random standard about baby clothing; i.e., it's a blight on the innocence of a child if his mother puts him in a polo shirt at the age of 2. That kind of thing.
  19. Deify my husband.  He's marvelous alright, but definitely not perfect.  It's never pleasant to be reading your blogs, sipping your coffee, and suddenly feel yourself gagging.
  20. Speak as though your life is obviously incomplete because you, your home, or your child don't have x, y, or z. 
15 things you *will* find on this blog:
  1. Pictures of my kids.  Not necessarily dressed up or at their best.  (Indeed, aren't those mutually exclusive?)
  2. Gratitude.  Lots and lots of it.  I have more to be thankful for than time in the day to express my thanks adequately.
  3. Unabashed admiration for my husband. 
  4. Nerdiness galore -- recommendations on books, documentaries, historical places to visit.  Buckle up.
  5. Sarcasm.  Because I'm good at it.
  6. A sense of humor about (almost) everything.  Laughter is critical and it never hurts to lighten up a bit.
  7. Links to blogs that I find important or meaningful or helpful or encouraging.
  8. Confessions of struggle, loneliness, and failure.
  9. Hope -- sweet, blessed hope -- for doing better tomorrow.
  10. Amateur(!) theological thoughts and musings.
  11. Tips on what has worked for me as a wife, mom, homemaker, friend, employee, Christian.  With a great big caveat that your life just might be different from mine, and your experiences unique.
  12. Tips on how to save money.
  13. Exultations at having saved some money!
  14. Questions on parenting.  I actually don't know everything because I actually haven't done this before.
  15. Boring anecdotes about my daily life.  Let's face it, this blog is for my parents, sisters, and a few very close friends who do me the favor of staying interested in my life despite how boring it truly is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Introducing "Series 35"

Installment #1
In honor of my fast-approaching 35th birthday (I just choked a little typing that), I'm going to write 35 lists of 35 items each.  Some will be fun, and some will be serious, but all will be random, as I haven't the time to write anything altogether circumspect these days. 

In casting about for how to inaugurate "Series 35," I looked no further than my good friend, the Shabby Princess, for inspiration...her post today is a celebration of books (hello, kindred spirit, SP!).  Thus, here's my Series 35 on favorite books (fiction/literature; I might do another list on non-fiction) and favorite authors (if I couldn't narrow it down to just one offering from a particular author):
  1. Gotta start with the cream of the crop:  Jane Eyre by the inimitable Charlotte Bronte
  2. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  3. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
  4. Elizabeth Berg
  5. Beowulf (uh, the Anglo-Saxons?)
  6. Chris Bohjalian
  7. The Secret Garden (Francis Hodgson Burnett)
  8. Michael Crichton
  9. Agatha Christie
  10. Jennifer Donnelly
  11. Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)
  12. Silas Marner (George Eliot)
  13. Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
  14. Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Philippa Gregory
  17. Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson)
  18. Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
  19. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  20. Ernest Hemingway
  21. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  22. Barbara Kingsolver
  23. Sophie Kinsella
  24. Stephenie Meyer (that's right, I'm a Twi-hard and I don't mind admitting it!)
  25. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  26. Love Comes Softly (series by Janette Oke -- the best books you can give an adolescent girl, in my opinion)
  27. Nancy Pickard
  28. Francine Rivers (I almost put Redeeming Love but her other books are really just as good)
  29. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  30. Anita Shreve
  31. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  32. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  33. The Hobbitt (J.R.R. Tolkein)
  34. Jennifer Weiner
  35. Little House on the Prairie (series by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Note:  Some of these books I love so much I could cuddle them, while others I love because they really moved me (Tess) or changed my thinking in some way (Catcher).

So -- please leave a comment telling me what book(s)/authors I may have missed in a list of top 35!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#201-210

Thankful (for):

201.  Living a mere block away from an emergency room of a major hospital.  Sometimes I'm not fond of it (the medical helicopters flying super-low over our house, the ambulances whizzing by at high speeds), but when you need help yourself, it feels like living next to heaven.
202.  Being seen in said ER almost immediately and being stitched up by a very sweet girl, who gave me three lidocaine injections so I wouldn't feel a thing, and who chatted with me to keep my mind off of her task.  (Who would ever have thought I'd be thankful for *shots* in this list???)
203.  A husband who fed and bathed the kids after he parked me on the couch with a cup of hot tea when I got home.
204.  Advil.  And a husband who watched the clock and gave it to me faithfully, every 4 hours, until the throbbing subsided some.  (I know Marty appears frequently in my lists but he is truly the greatest blessing of my life and the most present and accounted-for husband I can imagine!)
205.  That my dear friend had a successful surgery and is healing and feeling quite well.
206.  Our pastor and his sometimes brief but always thought-provoking sermons.  He must have had an off day on our first visit (I thought his message was too simple) because since then, he's been knocking them out of the ballpark.  Not a Sunday goes by that Marty and I don't talk about the sermon on the way home, and not out of some kind of spiritual obligation, either!
207.  Meaningful ornaments -- "Our First Christmas, 2008", "Baby Boy, 2009", "Baby Girl, 2010".  It is wonderful to see your blessings celebrated on a Christmas tree -- a unique way to be thankful!
208.  That Will is trying so many new words, even hard ones like "wreath."  He is really gaining some new ground and I hope we'll be having full-on conversations very soon!
209.  Upcoming visits -- my parents in just a couple days, a friend in mid-January.  We heart company in this house!!!
210.  Pandora.  Instead of having to buy the new Michael Buble holiday album, we just created a radio station and get to enjoy his music for free!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You should see the other guy...

In a word, OUCH.
The other guy is the dome to a glass cake stand, which suddenly shattered while I was washing it last night.  The tangle wasn't pretty and I'm going to carry a scar from the encounter forever.  The other guy is now in the garbage and I am on the mend, though I must admit, finger lacerations/stitches hurt like crazy. 

I'll tell more of the story in a few days when I can type normally again...this is really just to show my boo-boo to my mom and dad.  :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Daybook

Outside:  This morning the frost was super-thick on the roofs around us, and the whole world seemed to be in one of those frozen silences.  But this afternoon the sun is shining, the frost has melted, and it's warming up a bit outside -- which is good, because we're going to get our Christmas tree tonight and I don't want to freeze my tail off!

Thinking: About a dear, dear friend going into surgery in just a few minutes.  My stomach has been in knots this whole day, not out of fear (because it's pretty much a routine procedure) but because I hate that she has to go through this and I'd rather do it for her (talk about routine -- I've had 6 surgeries in my life and they don't really bother me anymore, isn't that sad?).  Also about another dear friend having surgery on kills me that I can't go be with both of these girls.  Also about another dear friend going through postpartum issues...and again, I would be so ecstatic to just go help her and make her take a bath and a nap so I could run some laundry and dishes and entertain the toddler and hold the baby.  I've *been* there (and back, thank God) and there's nothing so helpful as a person who just *gets* it.  (Lord, do you hear me?  Please move me closer to at least one of these precious friends!)

From the kitchen:  A rather ordinary weekend menu-wise, except that I'm going to whip up a batch of dark-chocolate chip/toffee cookies for enjoying in front of the fireplace and the Christmas tree.

Reading: The Bible.  I've signed up for a "read the Bible in one year" program at church, and they're giving away Bibles formatted for this very purpose!  I'm excited to get started on January 1st, but I'm trying to get into the habit now.  Every morning while the kids eat their breakfast and watch cartoons, I'm going to sit down with my coffee and read a few chapters.  I've always wanted to do this and 2012 is my year!

Shopping: Ooh, rubbing my hands together in anticipation!  We've had little bits of extra money come in from various places, and we've budgeted for a final big spree at the middle of the month, so I'm making my list and checking it twice!  I can't wait to pick up a couple of the larger items and put them together for Christmas morning.  I hope my kids are beside themselves with joy (and I hope I make my Hubby happy too!).

Hoping:  For a very happy Christmas Day, which is also Marty's birthday.  It's soooooo important to me to make that day a good one for him, and I've got a couple (little) surprises up my sleeve.  Marty, if you're reading this, do NOT take it upon yourself to go snooping around the house in places you don't often frequent...

Hearing: The washing machine work its magic on the fifth or sixth load of the day.  I drank a ton of coffee this morning and I've been attacking my chores!

A favorite thing:  Free gifts with purchase, especially when they're actually NICE items, not just throwaway junk.  (I can't say what it is because that would give away a purchase I made for someone...)  Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate (to *DIE* for).  Gain detergent (I switched from Tide a couple months ago and I'm still enjoying the new smell!).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updates on my kiddos

As we approach the end of 2011, I want to remember what the kids were doing at this point (and I haven't written anything about them in awhile, so I think it's time!)...

William Champion
  • is 29 months today, as a matter of fact. 
  • I can't remember the exact numbers from our last pediatrician visit, but he's 30-some pounds and 30-some inches tall.  He's wearing mostly size 2T and some 3T in clothes but a 4T in pajamas.  He wears a size 8(!) shoe.  He's also wearing a size 6 diaper.
  • I haven't been in any rush to potty-train him (as I've read that it's much better to wait than to force the issue) but he's been giving me lots of signs lately, indicating a readiness to go for it.  So, right after Christmas we're going to get started! 
  • is offically enrolled in speech therapy, though we haven't begun actual sessions (there's lots of screening and testing and planning that happens beforehand).  He will also be seeing a speech/language pathologist to help us move forward with appropriate therapies to improve his facial muscle tone and oral motor skills. 
  • Despite any "delay," however, Will is improving all the time with his speech and is constantly adding to his vocabulary.  If a mom's gut is to be trusted as any kind of credible source for understanding a child's development (and I think it is!) then my whole theory on this is that Will was simply uninterested in speaking for a long time -- past the normal age for this interest to be piqued.  Just in the last couple months, though, we have seen this interest spark in him, as Will constantly repeats what we say (even if it's unintelligible, the effort is clearly there) and shows a growing desire to communicate wants and needs. 
  • knows his A-B-C's and his numbers 1-10 (although he often inexplicably skips 6 and 7).  He's starting to show interest in the numbers after 10, too!  Will can identify lots of animals and make their sounds, though he doesn't seem to accept the fact that a zebra isn't a horse (it's a funny conversation to have with him).  He loves to point out body parts and facial features, especially his (or your) belly button -- this makes him giggle!  We are working hard on colors (he wants to call everything "blue" although I know he knows orange, yellow, red, green, purple, and pink, too, since he's correctly identified them before).  Next up is shapes; we've bought him stringing beads for Christmas to help him nail these, too.
  • has had a recent EXPLOSION of interest in books (that's my boy!!!).  His favorites are "Dogs" by Sandra Boynton, "10 Tiny Puppies" (as shown above), "Go, Dog, Go" by P.D. Eastman (sensing a theme here?), Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?", and "How Do Dinosaurs Count to 10?" (among lots of others). Will absolutely adores to sit in your lap and help you turn the pages, or sit and pore over all the pictures in one of his Bright Baby books.
  • Also shown in that picture?  His last pacifier.  We've lost all the others and we're not going to replace this one.  He only uses it at naptime and bedtime (I don't know why he had it in this picture), but to be honest, I'm loathe to take it away from him altogether.  This has nothing to do with him but is rather my own hang-up; I'm just not quite ready to let go of one of the last semblances of his babyhood.  Plus it comforts him, right?  (Rationalize much?)
  • loves to brush his teeth, although since he hasn't mastered spitting, we're still using non-fluoride training paste.  Will is also trying to help dress himself and likes to name the clothing items (he can say "pants," "shirt," "shoes," and "socks" really well but is working on "shorts" and "pajamas").
  • recently started sleeping with a nightlight.  After some night-waking and crying, we put two and two together and realized it was just super-dark in his room and he didn't like it that way, so now he has a blue car nightlight that he'll specifically request if you fail to turn it on!
  • also recently started singing!  His favorite is the "Backpack" song from Dora the Explorer (although it comes out "pack-pack" and is so cute I refuse to correct him for now).
  • is working on his "polite" words.  I can't get him to say "please" for the life of me but my sweet boy LOVES to say "Thank you!" with lots of enthusiasm.
  • is extremely affectionate.  He does this thing where he'll open his arms wide and say "Mama!" and come running to give me a hug.  Will also loves to give kisses and will make a belated smacking sound with his lips because I think he thinks he's supposed to actually make the sound rather than have it happen naturally.  It's too precious.
  • has done some time in the time-out chair (the bottom step of our staircase).  He is rarely wilfully disobedient (although that's creeping up in places) but he does struggle with whining and sometimes mistreating his sister.  He is very good at taking his punishment, though, and 99% of the time is contrite and compliant after his 2 minutes are up.  So far, so good at curbing bad behavior with him!
  • Favorites:
    • Breakfast:  strawberry jam on toast, sliced bananas, orange juice or milk.
    • Foods:  hot dogs, yogurt, raisins, animal cookies, ravioli/soft pasta, chicken, deli ham, grilled cheese, pickles, tomato soup(!), cooked carrots, Nutella, ice cream.  (Still struggling with veggies...)
    • Activities:  playing with/lining up/organizing his Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, playing ball with his Daddy, coloring, going to the park, going to Sunday School, being read to, taking baths (he goes "swimming").
    • Cartoons/movies:  (Richard Scarry's) Busytown Mysteries (he asks for "cat"), Kipper the Dog (he asks for "dog"), Peter Rabbit, Baby Bumblebee vocabulary builder videos.
  • Dislikes:  getting his hair cut (and with his mop, we have to do it often, unfortunately), seeing Daddy leave for work, his baby sister being in his business, bedtime.

Lucy Elizabeth
  • just turned 16 months.
  • is in the upper 20s in weight and I simply have no idea how tall she is (I don't think they've measured her at the doctor's in quite awhile...), though I would venture to say upper 20s in inches.  LuLu is wearing both 18-month and 24-month sizes in clothing, depending on the manufacturer/brand.  She is wearing a size 5 diaper and a size 6 shoe.
  • is not talking at all, really.  Sometimes I'm tempted to feel a bit dismayed by this, but now that I've seen Will's growth and development, I know that kids just develop at their own rates and most of the time, when they're just good and ready to do so and not before.  This doesn't necessarily indicate a problem (in fact, problems are rare but parents can be entirely too quick to the draw out of fear!) so we're not going to borrow any trouble unless/until our pediatrician expresses her concern.  Lucy babbles quite a bit and does have a handful of words (she loves to say "GO!" and "Yay!"), although she doesn't call any of us by name (she says something like "mama" but it's not quite there). 
  • is extremely well-developed in her motor skills and physical abilities.  She has been walking since 13 months and is now running everywhere and climbing on things.  I accidentally left the baby gate open for a couple of minutes and found her about 5 steps up on the staircase!  The child has no fear and no sense of caution whatsoever.  This should prove to be interesting.
  • is a champion sleeper.  If she happens to wake up at night, it's only because she's had a diaper leak or is in pain from teething, and even then it's clear that she's desperate to go back to sleep.  Her usual bedtime is anywhere from 7:30 to 8:30 (it all depends on what we've had going that day) and she will sleep for 11-12 hours solid.  She also goes down very well, too; we give her a bottle and rock her for a few minutes but only for comfort -- she is drowsy but still awake when we lay her down.  She is wonderful at settling herself in and going to sleep.  (Will was not this way AT ALL so Lucy's habits are a huge relief to us and a welcome change!)
  • loves to rub her ears (or yours) as a comfort mechanism when falling asleep.  It's my favorite quirk of hers.
  • is still taking warm milk bottles -- one in the morning and one at night.  Despite every effort to get her to take anything from a sippy or straw cup, she will only take a sip or two but won't actually drink for nourishment/to quench thirst.  I'm getting frustrated on this point since I can't keep buying different brands of cups to try with her, and I'm heartily sick of using bottles and I'm ready to see them go.  Dr. Estes encouraged us to try a cold-turkey approach (just don't give her a bottle one morning and give her milk in a cup instead) but I'm reluctant to try it this way (I hate any "method" of helping children to the next stage that isn't slow and gentle -- hello, WEANING).
  • has garnered herself about half a dozen nicknames.  We call her "Lucy" quite a bit but we also call her "Boo-Boo," "Belles-Belles," "LuLu" or just "Lu" (or "Lou" -- her Daddy and I disagree on the spelling), and "Luce-my-goose" or "Lu-my-goo."  I know, we're weird.
  • is not really into dolls yet, but does sometimes like to cuddle them and peer into their faces (I wonder if she's waiting for them to respond?).  Her favorite, favorite toy in the world is this little Fisher Price stereo that plays different kid tunes ("Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider") when you push various buttons.  She also loves this push-and-ride dinosaur that we bought for Will to help encourage him to walk (but he never used), a toy piano, and kitchen items (both play and real -- she loves bowls and spoons and spatulas).  She really loves all the Little People items and she's getting a couple more for Christmas, including a "zoo train" that plays music when you push it along, which I think is going to be a big hit with her!
  • This girl LOVES TO DANCE, and her favorite music to dance to is the "Go, Diego, Go" theme song (I think because it has a strong beat?).  And she doesn't just bop about a bit, no -- Lucy waves her arms almost like a hula dance, and she shakes her little booty from side to side and up and down -- it is *hilarious* to watch. 
  • struggles a bit with separation anxiety.  If her attention isn't focused on a toy or a show and I leave the room, she gets pretty unhappy, and will follow me about, trying to do what I'm doing (you can imagine how much work I don't get done when this happens).  I call her my little duckling, because she follows me around so much!  I actually love this most of the time and appreciate that she wants to be with me, but if I need to get work done or leave her in the nursery, things can get pretty dramatic and is very difficult on both of us.
  • is progressing pretty slowly with her foods.  She is still eating mostly baby food (6 tubs a day!) plus cereal, but is finally moving on to some nibbles like Club crackers and honey-nut Cheerios.  She will eat green beans and raisins and ravioli but just kind of plays with other offered items.  In this area as well we're just moving at HER pace and that's okay with us!
  • still has only the 4 teeth (both top and bottom front teeth).  Her incisors are coming through but PAINFULLY slowly.  Poor baby.
  • is very expressive.  She will put her hands under her chin like she *knows* she's being really cute:

  • has extremely wild hair.  And no one can seem to agree on whether she's dark blonde or light brunette.  I guess time will tell!
  • Favorites:
    • Cartoons/movies:  Dora and Diego are by far her favorites, but she also has an affinity for Sesame Street and Barney (that Will doesn't seem to share).
    • Activities:  following Will around, following Mama around, snuggling on Daddy.  She loves the baby swing at the park and riding in the baby seat of the grocery cart but *only* if I let her hold my list and pen!  She also loves car rides and picture books and mirrors.  (What can I say?  She's a girl!)
  • Doesn't like:  the church nursery, getting wiped up after a meal, being told "No."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#191-200 (yeah!)

Thankful for:

191.  "Downton Abbey."  Yes, I'm thankful for a TV show.  If you've seen it, then you know why.  (These characters are like *family* to me!)
192.  Internet-savvy people who showed me where to access Season 2 of the above (before it's released in America)!
193.  The amazing music service at church yesterday, with the choir and orchestra (it felt like we should have been charged admission!).  I bawled like a baby during their rendition of "O Holy Night."  I think it's the most sacred of the Christmas hymns and is very, very special to me. 
194.  When my kids are being extremely quiet, and I suspect naughtiness, but I actually sneak up and find that they're just deeply engrossed in books or puzzles or toys, lost in their own thoughts and imaginings. 
195.  Remembering a box I had in the garage and digging through it to find not only a long-forgotten favorite purse (Ralph Lauren brown-and-green plaid, purchased at an extreme discount) but a pair of Franco Sarto brown leather boots. (How does one forget about such treasures?  It's called back-to-back pregnancies that a) make your memory so much mush and b) make boot-wearing a laughable venture!) Now I just have to pick up a couple of skirts and pairs of tights at TJ Maxx and I can get tons of use out of both without spending a lot of money!  
196.  Marty's homemade pizza.
197.  Six-foot, pre-lit pine garlands on sale at Hobby Lobby for $10.
198.  A husband who is willing to spend time hanging nails at strategically hidden spots so the mantel decoration and stockings could be strung together with twist-ties so that the under-3 set in our house can't pull the whole shebang onto their noggins!
199.  The opportunity to do a small editing job to both exercise my brain and earn a little bit of Christmas money.
200.  The fact that our Redeemer came to us as a tiny baby, to show us that God became man in his most helpless form, to feel the sufferings of humanity and to ultimately sacrifice Himself for our sins.  The Christmas story is so powerful, it can't help but captivate our minds and souls and draw us to His heart, so full of love and grace and compassion for us.  As I sing "Away in a Manger" to Will at night, I am caught up in the beauty of the story, again and again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#181-190

Thankful (for):

181.  The wisdom of this quote, which is now written out in large letters and taped to my fridge:  "You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once."  (~Polish proverb)  Keeping this in mind has changed my attitude so much.  Just today, I was busy doing something when Will came to me with his "Go, Dog, Go!" book, and even though I was tempted to say "Hang on" or "Maybe later", I grabbed his hand and we sat down in an armchair and I read it through with all the fun inflections like I had all day.  Because for my son, I do.  He's growing so fast...
182.  Creative gift-giving.  Marty and I can't afford to do a whole lot for each other this Christmas, but right now he's at Buffalo Wild Wings, settled at the bar with a beer and wings, watching his beloved Saints play Monday Night Football.  Time off from our delightful-but-demanding home life is always a treat, and I'm thrilled that I came up with the idea!
183.  The fact that Marty did a voluntary Starbucks run for me before his game.
184.  For a successful Thanksgiving dinner (my sister and I *rocked* the kitchen, y'all!).
185.  For a lovely visit with Katie and Chris.
186.  For the new kids' winter coats and homemade bread that arrived with my sister from my parents.
187.  That I've finally embarked on a lifelong dream -- to write a book.  I have a whopping 100 words or so written, but I have characters and dialogue and settings and scenes and a PLOT in my head and I'm so excited!
188.  For God's provision.  I just read an article today about the growing use of food stamps among young professionals who are out of work in this terrible economy, and it was a sobering reminder to be so grateful for Marty's job, regardless of its geographical location!
189.  For the upcoming, just-before-Christmas visit from my parents.
190.  For the merriment of planning a fun Christmas Day with my Marty -- we are going to live it up!  Right now, mimosas and French toast are on the breakfast menu, and the dinner menu is featuring a surf-and-turf theme (prime rib and sea scallops, woot!!!).  And we've barely even begun to plan!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#171-180

Even though I have *no* spare time today, I'm still making myself sit down to do this because it's like taking a soul vitamin to stop and just be grateful for a few minutes.

Thankful (for):

171.  That a wedding is not the culmination of a love story (or at least, it shouldn't be).  The better, more interesting, most beautiful stuff happens long after the "I do's" have been said. 
172.  That my husband knows just exactly what to say when I need his encouragement.  Last night I was bemoaning the notion that perhaps when they are older, our kids won't want to spend Thanksgiving with us (or will have obligations elsewhere, to their own families or spouses' families).  Marty just looked at me and said, "If that happens, we'll fly to New York.  I'll take you to a Thanksgiving dinner at The Four Seasons and we'll go see The Nutcracker at The Met.  And Love, that's *worst case scenario*."  (How did I get this man???)
173.  My mom's homemade strawberry jam (and having several jars of it in the freezer). 
174.  Long email discussions with my dearest friends.  I have tears in my eyes thinking of you guys.
175.  Handbell choir performances at church.
176.  Buy one, get one half-off sales at Shoe Carnival.  Now both of my kids have new tennishoes and we saved $20!
177.  That my son simply adores his father.  If Will happens to be awake when Marty leaves for work, I have to console a weeping little boy who says, "Daddy -- car!  Daddy -- car!" over and over again, trying to make me understand that he *needs* to go to work with his Daddy.  It breaks our hearts...but in a good way.  :)
178.  That when I lay Lucy down for the night, I can count on the fact that she will sleep a solid 12 hours and will wake up refreshed and happy.  Her first year wasn't the easiest, and memories of it make me even more thankful for her sleeping habits now!
179.  Toys that hand down well from kid to kid. (Lucy is currently banging on a toy piano that was given to Will.)
180.  For a girl's night out tonight to see "Breaking Dawn" with Jessie!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Daybook

Outside:  It is spitting snow!  Or it was, briefly.  Come back, snow!  I may curse you in late winter/early spring, but I welcome you at the *appropriate* times! 

Thinking: That it was high time I stopped fighting the way my kids want to play.  They have a play area upstairs but I don't often have enough chores to keep me up there for extended periods of time, nor do I have lots of spare time to just sit and play with them (although I do make that time periodically, and Marty spends lots of time up there with them while I clean the kitchen or what-have-you).  Anyway, having their toys in one corner of the main level of our house just wasn't working -- every day by the end of the day our house would resemble a daycare with toys strewn about and me feeling frustrated about it.  Somehow I got the uber-bright idea to establish play stations at strategic locations -- a bin of blocks and cars here, a shelf of books there, a box of Little People over there.  One of the boxes is in the kitchen and since my Lucy is a little duckling (who likes to follow me about and prefers to just be wherever her mama is), this is the one that she is drawn to most, and I love having her in sight while I do my dishes or plan my menus.  And when it's time to pick up for the day, the toys just go in the nearest bin/box/shelf/basket and all is well with my soul and in my house!  Hurrah!

From the kitchen:  Going to try a new recipe called "Beef and Brew Stew."  Doesn't just the sound of that make you feel cozier?

Going:  Nowhere really.  Which isn't a bad thing, considering that it's cold enough to snow and bundling up toddlers in all their various gear isn't exactly my idea of a good time.  Although I do hope it warms up enough to get back to the park one day this weekend, or we'll be headed to the mall so Will can run off some energy.

Reading: (still) Goodnight Nobody (Jennifer Weiner) and American Sphinx (John J. Ellis).  I vacillate between filling my head with the good nerdy stuff (latter) and indulging in a silly chick-lit mystery (former).  I never really read one book at a time, it seems.

Shopping: For the remaining 50% of the kids' Christmas presents.  I'm stuck on something for Lucy and we're also debating one of Will's.

Hoping:  To have a lovely time with Katie and Chris next week.  And that we don't ruin the turkey (Katie and I are both intimidated). 

Hearing: A chattering Lucy but a silent Will, who is in time-out for the second time this morning (for a tantrum and then throwing).  I *can't stand* to discipline him but I have to say, the time-out chair has saved my sanity because it's a non-aggressive form of punishment, really gets Will's attention, and WORKS 100% of the time.  Some days we don't need it; other days, like today, it sees a lot of action.  Oh well...

A favorite thing:  Moving furniture around.  The five little Thanksgiving/harvest trinkets I picked up at Hobby Lobby for a whopping $9 total.  Perrier.  York peppermint patties.  A brand-new Yankee candle Mom found in her garage that I'd somehow left there -- yay for found treasure!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monticello: Reflections

(My apologies for the tardiness of this post...I'm really trying to blog everything that I've promised, even if I'm the only one who follows along or cares!)

My earlier post featured some of the best pix -- now here's some that didn't make the cut, but definitely tell a story all their own!
You try to pose your kids and this is the best they give you.  Whatevs.

You try to pose your kids for a shot with Mommy and this, again, is their best effort.  (My kids look deeply offended, don't they?)

Finally, after much coaxing, you get your daughter to smile, but you don't really get a sense of the PORCH she's sitting on.  After all that.  Sigh.

And it's a good thing this wasn't some precious historic handed-down-through-the-generations plant because my kid would have decimated it.

Then you tell your husband to adopt his most presidential, think on the rights of liberty for all mankind, kind-of pose, and he dorks it up completely with his faux JFK pose.  (We doubled over and hooted with laughter after taking this shot.)

And finally, proof that even one of the greatest minds that ever lived *NEEDED AN EDITOR*.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my reflections, both historical and practical, from our Monticello visit:
  • You really expect the house to be bigger than it is.  But of course, it was probably a monster-sized house for the day and age in which it was built and dwelt in.  (And too, this place has probably skewed all my perspective on such things...)
  • I had read ahead of time that umbrella strollers were available for rent from the house, and as the only ones approved for use in the house, we planned on this and didn't take ours on the shuttle up to the house.  What the website *doesn't* tell you is that they don't allow the strollers to be used outside of the house, which would have been extremely helpful to know, because I would certainly have lugged our double stroller on that shuttle.  What happened was -- of course -- we ended up physically lugging children throughout all our time outdoors and in the other exhibits, and that's a good 75% of the visit. 
  • The other part of the story is that our kids sat quietly in their strollers for approximately 1.5 rooms, whereupon both began classic meltdowns.  Whereupon all other tourists in our group leveled me (I'm the mom, I should be able to prevent/stop these things, right?) with frustrated, even kinda ugly stares.  Whereupon our tour guide took me aside and "invited" us to take turns with my parents (so they could step outside with the children while we toured, and then we'd reciprocate).  I don't think you're supposed to say "no" to that kind of invitation, so we did as told, er, suggested.
  • And thus began an accidental jaunt through Monticello all alone with my beloved.  My parents continued to let us have alone time throughout our visit and I can't tell you how much fun that was.  The duties of parenthood (especially to two toddlers) are so pervasive, vigorous, insistent, persistent, and constant that you really do forget what it's like to just be alone, to enjoy walking hand-in-hand, to whisper questions and answers and reflections to each other during the tour guide's lecture.  We can't thank Mom and Dad enough for that opportunity.
  • My favorite room in Monticello is the breakfast room.  The gorgeous sunlight, the cozy table, the antique china -- lovely.
  • You know your husband is a bigger nerd than you when he can correctly identify a bust of John Adams from across a large room.
  • When in Thomas Jefferson's bedchamber, they don't tell you that he actually died in that bed.  For some reason, I think they were remiss not to share that factoid...I think I would have been more hushed or respectful or something.
  • The regular tour doesn't take you up to the famous octagon room on top of the house.  A much more expensive behind-the-scenes tour will, though.  Maybe next time!
  • We loved our tour guide for being so enthusiastic and yes, helpful in her practical suggestion, but we felt a tiny bit rushed through.  I found out later that October is their busiest month!  Probably because the mountain vistas are extraordinarily beautiful and the weather just right for strolling about the grounds.
  • I shared this in my original post, but I found the "support system" of Monticello to be just as fascinating as the house.  Tunnels and cellars and creaky old doors, oh my!
Well, that's all I can remember for now.  If I think of anything else, I'll just add it to my list here!  And if anyone who reads this is planning a trip to Charlottesville/Monticello, please let me know because after tooling about the city for a couple days, I learned a few helpful tidbits that can really save you some time/effort.  Happy Traveling!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#161-170

(In the interest of brevity, since I'm usually long-winded on these and since I'm already burning through these precious moments of naptime peace and quiet...)

Thankful for:

161.  Bailey's.  Especially when my Marty plays bartender and brings me a Bailey's and cream on the rocks after a super-long day.
162.  Doors and toilet lids.  Laugh if you want, but given Lucy's new penchant for swirling various objects in toilet water, you'd be thankful, too.
163.  Real Simple magazine, especially the December issue (love all those gift ideas!).  (Dear Santa, my subscription is almost up...)
164.  A husband who requests that I write him a Christmas list. 
165.  The indulgent act of perusing various online stores for items to put on aforementioned Christmas list.
166.  My washer and dryer.  They are indisputably older than the hills but are still managing the daily onslaught of (sometimes nasty) baby clothes and other laundry I throw at them, er, in them.
167.  Planned shopping trips to Kohl's, TJ Maxx, and Target tomorrow, not only for needed supplies, but for Christmas presents for our babies.  Buying them surprises makes me rub my hands together in glee, I'm so happy!
168.  Mild 60-plus-degree weather in mid-November.  Dear the South, this Yankee loves you.
169.  My nightly date with Marty to watch 30 Rock.  We've always liked the show but didn't always get the jokes because we hadn't watched from the beginning, so we started watching them episodically a few weeks ago.  We have a blast watching them, and I swear Tina Fey might be the funniest person currently living!
170.  Lots of new words from Will this week, including when he patted his chest with both hands and said "Good boy!" in repitition of my praises.  Makes me feel successful as a mommy, at least in the moment.  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...Catching Up Edition...#141-160

Thankful for:

141.  My Shark steam mop.  After Will was sick over the weekend, using a steam mop to clean (and destroy germs) was not just practical in de-germing my house, it was therapeutic.  There is nothing so clean-cozy as the smell of steam!
142.  A little pill called Zofran, that dissolves on the tongue and is safe for little ones to stop their nausea. 
143.  Extremely good news from the in-depth assessment Will had with the developmental therapist on Monday night.  (Sorry Toddler Mama friends, this is all going to be repeat info for you...) I could not be more pleased with Alicia's assessment, not because it's what I wanted to hear, but because it makes sense and rings true. She told me that language is both cognition and expression...she tested Will's cognition and she says he is at least at the 3 1/2-year-old level (her tests didn't go further), so not only is his cognition normal, but advanced! She says he does have a problem with expression but that she wouldn't call it a speech delay. She closely observed his physical act of speaking and noticed that he has underdeveloped oral motor skills/poor facial muscle tone (aggravated by a pacifier but not caused by it -- he was just born that way). She said that with some speech therapy and muscle exercises, his expression will catch up to his cognition and he will be *absolutely fine* and on track.  We are simply overjoyed at this news!
144.  The sound of my children laughing as they play together.
145.  The excitement of planning a Thanksgiving menu with my sister (she and her hubby are coming to Tennessee to celebrate the day with us and have a good long weekend of catching up).
146.  Growing ever closer to my husband and still experiencing heart palpitations when I see him.  :)
147.  Advice from friends, on matters great and small.  I love when people care enough to weigh in.
148.  Finding old friends on Facebook.  Although my relationship with the social network remains in the love/hate category, sometimes it really does prove its value to me.
149.  A good visit with my parents and having the chance to travel to Virginia together.  Even though it was a bit stressful at times (traveling with two toddlers is never easy), it was still loads of fun.
150.  My new slippers (purchased in Virginia from this lovely shop called London's, a "Bathecary").
151.  "Cottage Style" and "Country French" magazines.  Eye candy!
152.  The fact that my mom gave me one of the above when I really couldn't justify the cost added to my grocery budget ($10 a pop!).
153.  How well Will is responding to the new institution of the time-out chair (it's the bottom step of our staircase).  I hate to discipline him, but he really "gets" the punishment and is (almost) always ready for apology/reconciliation when his time is up.
154.  How much Lucy is developing lately.  Her walking has turned energetic and forceful, punctuated with periods of dancing and swaying and babbling with strong opinion (we've no idea what she's saying but let me tell you, she really means it!).  She is the funniest creature.
155.  That it's still warm/sunshiney enough to open a couple of windows during the day.  I hope this lasts well into December and is possible again early in the new year.  Fresh air does wonders for my soul!
156. Constant Comment tea.  I've tried probably in the hundreds of flavors of teas, but this is still my favorite.  A classic. 
157.  Clorox wipes. 
158.  Febreze with Gain scent.
159.  The Internet.  I found my husband (eHarmony), my nanny (wish I still had her!) (CitySitters), my current home (Craig's List) -- all online.  I even found a few dear friends through their blogs.  I planned our Monticello visit online, now Katie and I are working on our Thanksgiving menu from various recipe websites...what would we do without the Internet???
160.  This exercise in gratitude.  I love how it makes me stop and be thankful once a week. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Monticello: Pictures

Here are some pictures from Monticello (we visited on October 31st).
Stay tuned for a follow-up post, Monticello:  Reflections.
My favorite picture of the house.

I hate how "flat" this looks because when you're standing on the terrace, the view of the mountains is just breathtaking. 

One of the most goose-bumpy factoids of history:  Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of his Declaration, on July 4th, 1826.

TJ's monument.  The original, more simple stone was replaced by Congress and his gravesite surrounded by this wrought-iron barricade.  We like to protect our Presidents even centuries after they've passed, apparently.

BFFs.  (See?  We both wore our brown vests on this day.)

At the Welcome Center, gift shop, museum area.  SUPER easy/navigable for tourists and just a lovely area.

On the shuttle going up to the house; my mom and Will reading up on their history.

Me and Lucy, getting ready to join our tour group.  Please notice in this picture (and in others) my complete mom-on-the-go uniform of puffy vest, jeans, and WHITE tennishoes.  *rolling of eyes* (Dear Anthropologie:  one day...)

Two gentleman, strolling about the grounds...

On the famous porch with my Puppy.

One of my other favorite pix...  The house is flanked on both sides by two L-shaped terraces that end in small pavilions.  Underneath the house and both terraces is an enormous "behind the scenes" area (French kitchen, stables, ice house, pantries, wine cellars, etc.) that supported the elegance of the formal life at Monticello, and this is one of the neatest areas to explore. 

Examining a leaf that had just landed on the terrace...I imagine one of TJ's grandsons might have done this very thing.

The chimneys extend from the kitchens below.

The terraces are surrounded by gorgeous trees, and the day was superb for enjoying the dappled sunshine.

Looking all founding-fatherly.  :)

For her scrapbook.  My little traveler!

One of the breezeways under the house -- practically NOTHING has changed here in nearly 300 years.  The imagination really gets going walking through this tunnel!

The tunnels/breezeways are very well-lit by these magnificent windows that showcase some of TJ's flower beds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I should just call it Multitude Tuesdays...#131-140

Thankful for:

131.  God's hand of protection on my sister Sarah when she was in a pretty bad car accident this past week.  For her *amazing* ability to dial her husband's number on her cell phone while semi-conscious (she couldn't speak coherently to him but a lady who'd run over to help was able to talk to Garrett and tell him what happened and where she was).  (Don't you love what this says about their connection as husband and wife?  Or is the romantic in me reading too much into it?)  Sarah is fine but has a concussion and a contusion on her left eye, so she has some recovery ahead of her...
132.  The fall festival at our church tomorrow night.  Here's the thing:  I kind of hate Halloween.  But I love celebrating the more innocent and fun aspects to it, like dressing up in costumes (just the kids!) and playing games and eating candy and bobbing for apples and noshing on loaded chili with fellow churchgoers.  We're really looking forward to it!
133.  Being Monticello-bound this weekend!  The nerd in me is doing mental cartwheels!!!
134.  I may not always love where I live, but being able to live in the mountains when the leaves turn is just a GIFT.  The vistas are simply breathtaking.  I just drive to the grocery store and I almost can't keep my eyes on the road; the autumn scenery demands to be taken in!
135.  When friends go to England and send their England-homesick friends a book on the monarchy, an advent calendar, and a wool scarf.  Apparently one of my love languages is Scottish cashmere. 
136.  Disco music.  Especially ABBA.
137.  Lifesavers.  Especially the green ones.
138.  Mexican food.  Especially enchiladas.
139.  Trips to the grocery store by myself.  Especially then.
140.  Fountain Cokes.  Especially diet.  :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Multitude Monday (tardy again)...#121-130

Thankful for:

121.  A reassuring visit to the pediatrician last week.  Although Will showed delays in speech/language and gross motor skills on the test (administered to 27-month-olds), Dr. Estes is not convinced that we're dealing with anything significant, but wants him in therapy because it won't hurt and until he's 3 years old, it's free (courtesy of the state).  I'm thankful for her covering-all-bases caution, but more thankful for her optimism that whatever we're facing shouldn't be predictive of a long-term issue.  Overall conclusion:  Kids develop at their own rates, yet they're held to a common standard.  A bit maddening, really.
122.  That my Will, "delayed" in gross motor skills, did this on Saturday:
My monkey boy!
123.  For a fun and fabulous visit from Aunt Becky and her daughter Gracie, who drove 12 hours from Long Island, NY to be with us for just a couple of days.  They hadn't yet met our babies and were instantly delighted with them.  Aunt Becky says that Lucy is *very much* like her namesake, Lucille (Becky's mom and Marty's grandma).  I think there's even quite the family resemblance going on!
Aunt Becky sharing with Lucy the secrets of authentic Southern cooking.
124.  For gorgeous weather all weekend to enjoy with our family outside:
Daddy swinging his girl.

Taking over the park!

Lovely ladies

Fun with Mama!

Will's shoes kept gripping the slide, so we took turns taking him down.  He had so much fun!
125.  For a couple of long, hot baths with Scottish Fine Soaps, a gift from Aunt Becky.  I'd consider myself a decent expert on all things for the bath, and this is some darn good stuff!
126.  Discovering a Raggedy Ann doll for Lucy, on the clearance rack for $10 (at a bookstore, of all places).
127.  A fully stocked pantry.
128.  A new book, Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner (the fourth book of hers I've bought).
129.  A little device called a Roku which enables you to view streaming movies on your TV from your Netflix account.  I'm currently indulging in "Felicity."  Oh the memories!
130.  Orchids.  Graceful, exotic, yet comforting, too.