Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review: 2013

Last year I wrote that it was a quiet year. This year was...not quiet. Not one bit.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. Bought a house. Gave birth to a baby without drugs. Had a child go through heart surgery.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't do a great job of keeping my resolutions. Let's start with the last one - "Eat Less and Exercise More." I mentioned in my post on New Year's resolutions that I had started counting calories. I have no recollection of doing this. It ended up being a moo point anyway (hee), because I became pregnant with Christopher in January. So much for eating less and exercising more!

Resolution No. 3 was to organize my recipes. Nope.

Resolution No. 2: Get up when the alarm goes off instead of snoozing. Well, I don't wake up to an alarm anymore, and there is only one day a week that we have to be somewhere early.

Resolution No. 1. The biggie. Less screen time. I utterly failed at this. In November, though I did decide to stop looking at Facebook. I find I don't miss it at all! I went on again a week or so ago because I posted a picture via Instagram. The first post I saw was a former high school classmate bragging about her infant daughter (who is younger than Christopher) sleeping through the night. I promptly signed off again.

I don't have any specific resolutions in mind for this year, other than continuing my quest to be happy in my own life, without worrying about what everyone and their mother thinks about what I should or shouldn't be doing. Because, like a cow's opinion, most of their opinions don't matter.

(Okay, now I feel compelled to explain that the opinions of my family and friends do matter to me. I value their advice. See, I am out of control. I was worrying that people would be offended that I wrote that other people's opinions don't matter. Because they do. Except when they don't. Oh my God I am stopping now.)

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?

Yes. Chelsea had Blake. Katie had Ruby. Amanda had Maisy. Liz had Maggie. Jessica had Heidi. Am I forgetting someone? I feel like I am.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my grandpa passed away in April.

5. Where did you travel?

Nowhere, really. Unless you count driving between the Twin Cities and Evansville. Edited to add: I forgot about our trip to the Gunflint Trail and Grand Marais! That was fun.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

I would like to say that I want something fun, like more family outings or more time to read and cook. But really all I want is more sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?

October 4, the day Christopher was born. October 25, the day Christopher had heart surgery.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Christopher. He is a joy. Also, starting to find my groove as a stay-at-home mom. Of course, that was all thrown out the window when Christopher was born, but aside from the aforementioned lack of sleep, we are still managing to do many of the things we did before. It is just more challenging to get out of the house, especially in winter.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?


10. What was the best thing you bought?

Our house. It is not perfect, but I love the neighborhood. It is a great place to be a stay-at-home mom, and our neighbors are wonderful. I can see us staying in this house forever. Or, at least until we are ready to move into a retirement community.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The wonderful, wonderful staff at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. My very supportive family and friends.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Politicians who don't seem to realize that their job is to help people, and not just to please their big donors.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage and diapers. Does it ever end?

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Finding out I was pregnant and Christopher's birth. I was also pretty excited when we found our house.

15. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Bah. More Sesame Street songs. Also, the "Free to Be You and Me" album. (Have you heard it? It is a great album for kids.) Also: "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

Sadder, fatter and poorer. Wow, that sounds depressing, but it's all true.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Had date nights with Ben when it was still easy to hire a babysitter. We haven't found a non-family member babysitter here, and with Christopher being so young it is hard to get away. Someday we will have date night again. I hope.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Felt sorry for myself.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

See here.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Sleepy Hollow, Orange is the New Black, Justified, Gavin and Stacey (repeats), and, I'll admit it, Hart of Dixie. I know. I am super excited for the return of Downton Abbey and Sherlock this January.

22. What was the best book you read?

I came nowhere near my goal of reading 40 books this year, although in my defense when I set that goal I had no idea that I'd be moving and having another baby. Here is my top five from this year:

1. "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton
2. "In the Woods" by Tana French
3. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
4. "The Girl You Left Behind" by JoJo Moyes
5. "Divergent" by Veronica Roth

23. What was your greatest musical discovery

Nothing really. Although Ben did buy me the new Arcade Fire and Avett Brothers albums for Christmas.

24. What did you want and get?

A new house and a new baby!

25. What did you want and not get?

Sleep. (Not to beat a dead horse.)

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

Well, I hardly saw any, so I guess I'll go with Gravity. That was freakin' awesome. And not just because I was out without my children.

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Katie and Andrew made me macaroni and cheese and Ben and Clare made cupcakes. Christopher was only 12 days old, and we had just found out about his heart defect, so it wasn't the happiest of birthdays, but I will remember my failed attempts to blow out the candles. For some reason I just could not do it. Everyone found this to be hilarious. Oh, and I turned 34.

28. What one [or three] thing[s] would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

More time with friends. Even though I am back in the Cities, I don't see my friends nearly often enough. It is hard to coordinate around everyone and their children's schedules. I hope that as our kids get older, we'll find more time for get-togethers with and without the children.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Maternity wear for most of the year, and the last 2 plus months it has been anything with the least amount of spit up on it. I am very glamorous right now.

30. What kept you sane?

I don't know that I have kept sane, to be honest.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I want to be their BFF.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

I was very happy when Minnesota legalized gay marriage. I was very unhappy that the government shutdown.

33. Who did you miss?

My SNB girls in Madison, And you too, Misty! (I was actually talking to Misty on Facebook in the middle of the night when I was in labor with Christopher.)

34. Who was the best new person you met?

My new stay-at-home mom friend Heather. Oh, and Christopher, of course.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

I am so much happier when I remember that I have a good life. Duh, right? But it is so easy to get caught up in comparing what I have or do to what everyone else has or does. I still compare, but I have gotten much better at focusing on what I have and not worrying about everyone else. This is something I am going to continue to work on this year.

Happy New Year, all!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Snapshots

We celebrated Christmas with my family a few weeks early. At breakfast, my brother was making Christopher smile and laugh. When Robby looked away, Christopher got so. sad. I wish I had it on video - his lower lip was jutting out, trembling. As soon as Robby looked back, he started grinning again.


Clare got a basketball hoop from Aunt Katie and Uncle Andrew. She and Uncle Robby developed a trick shot, which involved throwing a ball from the top of the stairs over the balcony. Robby nearly broke several of my Mom's Christmas decorations. Clare did not break anything.


Clare has absolutely no interest in Santa Claus. I have stocking hanging over the fireplace, but I decided not to tell her that Santa comes down the chimney to fill them. I think it would just scare her. She keeps talking about us being "nice and safe" in our house, and the thought of an old man with a huge beard coming down the chimney would probably not fit into her definition of being nice and safe.


I had big plans to make all sorts of Christmas cookies this year, following in my grandmother's footsteps. It didn't happen. Katie and I did decorate sugar cookies with Clare, though. She took a minimalist approach: maybe five sprinkles on each cookie she decorated. "That's enough," she said. Okay then.


I did manage to keep my tradition of watching Love Actually. Priorities.


We had several other Christmas celebrations besides the one in Evansville: The Exley Christmas on the 21st, Christmas Eve brunch with Ben's side, Christmas Eve dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, and Christmas day with my parents, sister and brother-in-law, and grandmother. I was hoping to minimize Clare's expectations for presents from the get-go, but with four-plus Christmas celebrations I am afraid I have not been successful. I did buy her presents from garage sales this year, so at least there's that. It was a really lovely Christmas, though. Good food, good conversation, spending time with most of our immediate family members. Christmas morning with Clare was a blast - it was fun to see her so excited. She especially loved her doll stroller. She knew what it was right away, and started shrieking with joy. We also did a Google Hangout with my brother, who is in England, and Clare and Robby played basketball again over the computer. Since I was actually shooting the ball for my brother, he missed a few more times than he might have otherwise.


I remember when I would stress about plans for New Year's Eve. It was almost never as fun as I thought it should be. That is one great thing about having kids - it is an excuse to not to make plans. Especially when you have an infant. Come to think of it, I probably will be up around midnight, but hopefully I'll have slept for a few hours beforehand. And maybe I'll even sneak in a glass of champagne. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and maybe even do something cool and fun on New Year's Eve. (Anything will be more cool and fun than what I am doing.)

Every time she cut out a cookie, she said "Makin' cookies..."

Christopher and Grandpa Steve on Christmas Eve.

This, sadly, is the only shot I have of her in her Christmas dress. Notice the mouthful of food.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care - and Santa came!

And left presents, too. Including a baby.
Clare on Christmas morning.
I had to get a shot of Christopher in this outfit. (He was being changed due to a diaper incident.) Clare wore it at her first Christmas, too, when she was six months old. It fit Christopher this year, at two and a half months.

Clare "helping" Christopher open his presents.

Christopher meeting his Great Grandma Jean.

We've adopted the English tradition of Christmas crackers, which come with these lovely crowns. It looked cute on Clare, I am not sure about the rest of us. Although I have to say, my 86-year-old grandma pulled it off.

Christopher with his grandparents, the day after Christmas.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2 and a half

Likes: Elmo, bubbles, school (ECFE), mango, cereal, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, cookies, blocks, the little shopping carts at Lunds, books, helping with anything (but especially helping Daddy make eggs on Sunday morning), dancing, "doing work" on her computer or her workbench at the Cuckoo House, Christopher, her grandparents and aunts and uncles, except when Mommy and Aunt Katie start laughing (then she yells "Stop it!"). She is in for it if she can't handle our loud laughing, because it happens a lot.

Dislikes: Jeans, peppers, dogs, loud noises (except her own screaming), onions, spicy food, when the hood on her jacket gets "bunched up."

She is just such a funny, smart, spunky little girl. She is shy around people she doesn't know, or doesn't know well, but when she gets comfortable and opens up, she is very entertaining. She makes me laugh every day. I wish I could capture in a bottle how she is right now, at this age, to open up and revisit when she is 14 and thinks I don't get it.  (Except the times when she is whining or throwing a tantrum. Those times do not need to be saved for the future.)

She is starting to say some hilarious things, too. This gem made me feel especially good:

Ben: "Why were the other kids in class crying?"
Clare: "They were sad that their Mommies had left."
Ben: "Were you sad that your Mommy left?"
Clare: "No, I was really happy."

And earlier, I tried to move her hot chocolate (which she drank for the first time today), and she told me in no uncertain terms that what I was doing was unacceptable. "That's my hot chocolate. You leave it alone!" she commanded.

Seriously though. How is she 2 and a half? Some days I want time to speed up and other days I just want to say, "Stop it!"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two Months

Does the fact that I sobbed like a baby while watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special mean I am still hormonal? I hope so.

Christopher is two months old. When Clare was two months old, I wrote, "How did two months go by already??" I feel like Christopher has been here for two years. I also wrote this: "Clare slept through the night for the first time on July 27. She has since done that one other time, so it is hardly routine. Still, she generally only gets up once a night." Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha. I didn't know how good I had it. Christopher is not doing this. I thought bigger babies were supposed to sleep better, but apparently Christopher is a bigger baby because he eats all the damn time. He is the opposite of his sister - instead of being long and lean he is short and husky. (The doctor is predicting he'll make it to at least 6 feet, though.) He is currently 14 pounds.

Christopher celebrated his first Thanksgiving at Ben's parents' house, and then we traveled to Evansville to see my family, including my sister-in-law's parents who were visiting from England. The travel messed with Christopher's sleep "schedule," and I have not slept for more than two hours in a row since then. But enough about sleep. It is all I think or talk about and I am sick of it. Let's talk about wine instead! I got to have two full glasses of wine on Friday night. It was heavenly. Also heavenly: the fact that there were 10 adults to 2 kids, so I got lots of breaks, except when my services as the dairy bar were requested. We also visited my grandparents in La Crosse. I am so happy they got to meet Christopher, and I know they were happy to meet him. (And to see Clare, and she didn't disappoint - she was as entertaining as ever.)

Christopher is turning into quite the cutey pie, if I do say so myself. He holds his head up, except when he forgets and smashes his face into my shoulder. Then he cries. He is smiling a lot more, and becoming more and more alert every day. His sister can entertain him by laying with him under his floor gym and shaking the toys around. He loves it.

There is not much else to say about him right now: he eats, poops (sometimes, but that is an issue I am sure no one really wants to read about), sleeps (sometimes) and cries.

I have, of course, taken thousands of pictures this month. Here are a few of the holiday, and Christopher meeting and greeting with various family members.

On Thanksgiving Day.
With Uncle Robby. How much does Christopher look like Ben in this picture?

Cuddling with Meema Jo.

Meeting Ruth for the first time.
Decorating Meema Jo's tree.
Getting ready to take some family photos. Clare was wearing dress up clothes, and did not want to take them off. Christopher is in his second outfit of the day, after he destroyed the one I'd carefully selected for the pictures with one epic bowel movement.

Meeting Great Grandpa Bob.
With Great Grandma Clara.


Brother and sister.