Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review: 2014

Well. Last year was a big one in our family. New house, new baby, Christopher's heart surgery, etc. This year was much, much quieter. Even boring, perhaps. And that's okay with me.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Became an aunt. Took two small children camping. (It was a success!) Had a child start preschool. (Maybe in the long run that won't seem like a big deal, but it felt momentous.)

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

No. Once again, I did not keep them. I said that I was going to stop yelling at other drivers while in the car because it scared Clare. Well, it doesn't scare her anymore, but every time I do it she says, "I am not going to tell you again. Stop talking to the other cars. They can't hear you." She is SO three. I also said I was going to start eating less sugar. And no. I didn't do that either. My track record on these things is not very good, so I think I may just skip them entirely this year. We'll see.

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?

YES! My sister had my beautiful niece Josephine. My friend Jessie had Evan, Suzy had Isla, Maggie had Rachel, and Mandy had Piper.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. Where did you travel?

We went to Pipestone, Minnesota, on our first family vacation in June. We also went to Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. And of course, multiple trips to Evansville.

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

A better fitness routine, including making sure I get to my weekly yoga class. I NEED to do this. I need to.

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

January 5: Christopher's Baptism. February 1: My brother and sister-in-law's wedding. December 1: My niece's birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

SLEEP!!! Last year all of my answers to this questionnaire seemed to involve wanting more sleep. Well, Christopher has been sleeping through the night for the majority of the year. SLEEP. Is that really an achievement, though? Maybe not. In all seriousness, I would say that my biggest accomplishment is finding my groove as a stay-at-home mom. It is nice feeling like I have this thing under control. (Note: this will probably go out the window when I start caring for my niece Josie this spring. DON'T WORRY KATIE IT WILL BE FINE.)

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A few colds and my usually litany of random weirdness.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Hmmmm. I really like some sweaters I bought at Old Navy? I can't think of anything major or interesting.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I read an article that stuck with me about doctors working to combat Ebola. I just really admire those people. They are doing such important work.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Internet trolls. I have always known the internet was toxic, but it just seemed extra bad this year. I know I should just stay off of it, but I can't help myself. I always go back.

13. Where did most of your money go?

The usual: mortgage and diapers. Our budget can mostly be summed up as "Things for Children."

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

This may be lame, but I am really excited that I found a group of stay-at-home mom friends to hang out with during the week. We don't see each other everyday, but it means a lot knowing they are there.

15. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Everything on Elizabeth Mitchell's "Little Seed" album. I think I have listened to it almost every day this year. (Except for this month, when I issued a "Christmas music only" decree for car trips.)

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

Happier, maybe slightly thinner, and about the same financially.

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

Exercised. I always feel better when I do it, but I have such a hard time keeping to a routine.

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

Worried about things that are out of my control. I think I'll wish that every year. Also: obsessed about things that have already happened. (And are therefore out of my control.)

19. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve was spent at home with a sick 3-year-old. Luckily, she rallied for the main event and had a blast on Christmas Day. We had Christmas morning at home, complete with homemade gingerbread and a full English breakfast, and then had Christmas dinner at Ben's parents' house. We traveled to Evansville for the weekend following Christmas and had a nice visit there, filled with good food, good martinis, and good football. Also, a fun trip to see the lights at the Rotary Gardens in Janesville, which Clare really loves.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Orange is the New Black, The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Black-ish.

22. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of books this year that just did not live up to their hype. The worst offender: "The Goldfinch." I did not enjoy that book. I did like a few, though.

1. "The Paying Guests," by Sarah Waters
2. "Me Before You," by Jojo Moyes
3. "The Fault in Our Stars," by John Green
4. "The Rosie Project," by Graeme Simsion
5. "Hyperbole and a Half," by Allie Brosh

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I mentioned that I have been listening to Elizabeth Mitchell every day, and I actually really like her. It is music for kids, but her voice is so pleasant, and the music so pretty, that it doesn't get on my nerves the way some other music does.

24. What did you want and get?

Sleep! Yay!

25. What did you want and not get?

A minivan. However, I will be getting one early next year. I have officially turned into an old person/mom.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw four, maybe five movies this year? And of those, two were in the theater. I really liked "Gone Girl," but I think I'll have to go with "Guardians of the Galaxy." That movie was just fun.

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

I went to a fundraiser where I met Al Franken, and then out to dinner at Red Cow with my sister. It was fun and delicious. I also had a little family party with the kiddos, and then a date night with Ben at Craftsman a few days later. It was nice. I turned 35. I guess I am officially in my mid-30s. GASP.

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

More time doing things that are not related to children or child maintenance duties. This may not be possible when you have a 3- and 1-year-old and are also a stay-at-home mom, but it would be nice to have some time to myself or date nights or girls' nights or lunch out without kids or something!

Sort of related tangent: my friend Heather and I took our kids to Noodles for lunch recently. We turned our attention away from the three-year-olds for literally one minute to have a conversation, and we look back over and they are both waving their knives in the air. I asked Clare what the heck she was doing. "We're playing SUPER KNIVES!" she shrieked.

Yes. A lunch out without Super Knives would be absolutely lovely.

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

Any clothes that are mostly clean and kind of match. And Old Navy sweaters.

30. What kept you sane?

Ben. Friends. Family. Also: having a routine is HUGE for me.

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

I started following Mindy Kaling on Instagram and Twitter, and I love her. She is hilarious.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Bah. That sums up how I feel about politics right now.

33. Who did you miss?

Rob and Andri.

34. Who was the best new person you met?


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

On a small scale, I learned that if I keep my cool with Clare when she is acting up it really helps prevent the situation from escalating. Goal for 2015: learn how to keep my cool.

I've also spent a lot of time feeling grateful. Grateful that I live where I do, that I have the life I have. I know I am really lucky. That doesn't mean everyday is a good day, or that I don't have any problems, but remembering that helps a lot.

Happy New Year, all!

Christmas morning chaos.

Silly goose, silly hat.

Working on the annual Christmas puzzle.

Baba Ralph with his sidekick for the weekend.

Clare enjoying the Christmas lights.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weaned, accidentally

Over Thanksgiving, I injured my back. I have no idea what I did, but I could barely bend over. I took a few aspirin, completely forgetting that aspirin is a no-no when nursing. I figured it was no big deal, I was only nursing Christopher twice a day at that point, anyway. I'd just skip a day or two until the aspirin was out of my system.

I checked with his doctor, and she said it was fine to nurse again. I did, and he was kind of meh about it. Then, the next day he outright rejected me. He is fine with his cow's milk, thank you very much. I thought about trying to get him to nurse the next day, but I decided just to let it go. It is easier this way.

He still loves to snuggle, which was my favorite part of nursing anyway. I feel kind of sad about it, though. With Clare, I was sad after her last feeding, and the next day I was so happy. I am still waiting for the so happy this time. I think it is partly because he is likely my last baby. You never know, though, I suppose.

And I guess I am not sad to say goodbye to the nursing bras. I also plan to stock up on wine for Christmas, which I will be able to drink at anytime of the day. Not that I will. But I COULD.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Three and a Half

I was looking at what I wrote at this time last year. Of course, I was amazed that she was already two and a half. Now here we are a year later. Guess what? Time went by fast. Again.

I thought a good way to mark this new age milestone would be a brief interview with Clare. I've been wanting to do this ever since I read about it on another blog. She thought it was a blast, and I can't wait to see how her answers change from year to year.

I love that she thinks watching Mickey Mouse is the meaning of life, especially since she's only watched Mickey maybe once or twice. Apparently she is very fulfilled. Also: she loves the Children's Museum, so I am not sure what she thought I was asking there. I can't remember if I mentioned on here that she failed the hearing test at her school screening. I am not overly concerned because her ENT said she was fine when she saw him this summer. However, she has been saying "what" and "huh" a lot lately. All well, it just makes her answers more fun.

I had to include this last picture, because I love the look of pure joy on her face. Uncle Robby had just arrived for a visit, and it had been several months since she'd seen him in person. As you can see, she absolutely adores her uncle.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

14 Months

He's walking! Okay, so not on his own, yet. He walks behind push toys or anything else he can move across the floor, like the garbage can. He did it for the first time on November 12.  He can walk with one of us holding onto one of his hands. He crawls in a hilarious way now, especially if he is holding something. He has one knee on the ground, one foot on the ground, and one hand on the ground. Then he drags himself across the floor. He looks crazy doing it.

He says mama, more milk, nana (banana) and uh-oh. He waves goodbye. He gives high fives. He claps his hands. Whenever he is doing anything, he looks around to make sure he has the full attention of the room. If he doesn't, he lets you know about it.

He is still giving the best kisses in the world. He does it without me asking, now, just slobbering all over my face.

When we pull up to the building where we have our ECFE class, he starts grunting with joy. He knows what's coming. He could care less when I leave the room for my parent class. All of the other kids are crying, and I glance back at Christopher and see him chewing on a block, looking a bit bewildered. I am sure he is wondering what all the fuss is about.

He and Clare play together, and it is the best thing in the world. They both love playing outside, even this time of year. I hope that is something they can do together for years to come.

He has started using a fork. I just remembered a few weeks ago that he should probably start learning how to use one. The poor, neglected second child. With Clare, I was obsessed with every milestone. With Christopher, it is more like...wait, what should he be doing now?

I am just kidding about him being neglected, of course. He is so loved. If anything, I do too much for him, because I can't resist that smile, or those snuggles, or those bright eyes. There is just something about baby boys. He's got me wrapped right around his finger.

Still a bit confused about the snow.

Handsome lunch date.

Learning how to use a utensil. He needs some more practice.

In awe of the fish at the Minnesota Zoo.

A typical scene in our house.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bits and Pieces: November

I decided I am going to buy one of those happy lamps. I've had more than one person tell me they work for them, or for someone they know. Anyway, it can't hurt, right?

I have been feeling much better for the last week and a half, mostly due to all the distractions with Thanksgiving.

My brother, who lives in England, was here the weekend before Thanksgiving so I hosted an early dinner. It went well, except I burned the stuffing my mom made. Oops. I am not used to having so many dishes in my oven. Clare immediately attached herself to Robby and insisted he play with her all weekend.

On Thanksgiving Day, we drove down to my parents' house. My aunt and uncle, who live in Memphis, were there, along with their two adult children and spouse who live in New York and Chicago. It was great to see them, and eat stuffing that hadn't been burned. I also ate my fair share of pumpkin and raspberry pie. (Two separate pies, in case you weren't sure.)

I went out for a long lunch with my dear friend Christina, who I don't get to see often enough. And I am not kidding about the length. We sat down at 12:15, and the next thing we knew it was nearly 4:30. I guess that's what happens with good friends who are not rushing to get anywhere else.

My dad and I went to the Badger/Gopher football game. I was disappointed with the results, but going to the game was fun.

The only downside: I somehow sprained a muscle in my lower back, and it is so painful. Trying to pick up my nearly 30 pound baby is not easy.

So I don't know where my camera was during any of this time. I did take one picture, though. Clare completing her annual task of decorating Meema Jo's Christmas tree. She would spend all day doing that if she could. (Or sledding with Baba, another highlight of the weekend.)

Happy decorating season!

Meema Jo and Clare looking at the lights from under the tree.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The November Blues

I really struggle with the end of Daylight Saving Time. I remember feeling this way last year, and I blamed it on having an infant at home. But the feelings are back this year, and I think they can be firmly attributed to the days getting shorter. This blast of January weather is not helping, either.

Anything can cause me to spiral. Yesterday, it was climate change. Today, I was crying after reading an article on holiday traditions, because I suddenly felt like I didn't have any traditions for my little family and I AM FAILING AT CHRISTMAS. This is ridiculous, I realize this logically. Especially the holiday thing. Knowing that it is silly doesn't change anything, though. I wish I could have that much control over it, you know?

I noticed it creeping in last week. I had a bad day on Wednesday, worrying about something or other, I don't even know what. Then, the sun was out on Thursday and I was fine. It has been gray since, and so has my mood.

I snap at Clare. I'm short with Ben. Everything is blown of out of proportion: a perceived slight, a small criticism. I start second guessing decisions I made years ago, obsessing over them. I don't like feeling this way.

So. What to do? One thing that makes me feel better when I get down is writing about it. Here I am. I also decided to make a list of the things in my life that make me happy. Or, that at least should in theory make me happy. Small things. Here we go.

Snuggles from Christopher. Clare's little voice. Ben telling a joke. Red wine. White wine. Sleeping through the night. Watching Castle. Reading a really good book. Hiding in the bathroom to finish that book. Taking a long, hot shower. Being alone. A good cup of hot coffee. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, especially the ones from Pot Belly. Girls' night out. Play dates. Family time. Fried cheese curds. My kitchen. My brother coming to visit this weekend, all the way from jolly ol' England.

I have nothing to be unhappy about. The logical part of my brain knows this. I just need to get the rest of my brain to know it, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Some Stuff and Some Pictures

Me: "Clare, it's time to try to go to the bathroom."
Clare: "I don't want to."
Me: "I don't care. You need to do it anyway."
Clare: "What do you care about?"
Me: "I care about lots of things. Like you going to the bathroom."
Clare: "Do you know what I care about? Not going to the bathroom."

What am I going to do with this one?

Today is my sister's birthday (happy birthday, Katie!) and we are going out to eat, just the two of us. You may have noticed that one of my favorite things to do is go out to eat without my children. Also, Clare has decided to give Katie a present of baby toys that we don't need anymore. That sounds like a terrible gift, but they are, in fact, for Clare's soon-to-be born cousin, not Katie herself. Clare is very excited about her future cousin, and I think it is pretty sweet that she wants to give the baby some of her old toys. She also chose one of her purses for the baby, because Clare has decided she only needs one. (Yes, this 3-year-old has more than one purse. I don't know.)

We had our family pictures taken a few weeks ago. I hired the photographer based on a recommendation from my friend A., and I couldn't be happier with the results. I am especially happy because Christopher was extremely crabby throughout the session. You wouldn't know it based on most of the pictures. Here are a few of my favorites.

P.S. This snow can go straight to hell. Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

13 Months

One of my favorite things about this age is seeing Christopher's little personality emerge and become more defined. And, of course, I compare him to Clare. We went to story time at the library a few weeks ago, and while Clare was hesitant and wanted to sit on my lap, Christopher had no such hesitations. He crawled all over, looking at all the kids and all the books. When the librarian brought out a puppet, he barged his way to the front of the room and tried to grab it. Clare would never have done this, even when she was Christopher's age. She has always been reserved. Christopher is not. One of the other moms turned to me and said, "Well, he's the life of the party, isn't he?"

He sure is. My mother-in-law, aunt-in-law and a friend came over for lunch last week. Christopher spent the whole time making eyes at all the ladies, turning his head, batting his lashes, grinning. He was also demanding, requesting more water and more food and more more more. The ladies were only too happy to oblige.

He has started experimenting with crying to get what he wants. I can tell when he is faking it, though, and if I ignore him he usually gives up pretty fast. He cries when I leave, but gets over it the second I am out of sight.

He still loves to snuggle, and I'll take every second of snuggling I can get. I'll be in the kitchen or putting away clothes and feel a little tugging on my jeans. Christopher is there, thumb in his mouth. I give him a hug, and he goes back to playing. He just needs to check in once in awhile.

He can stand on his own for about 30 seconds. My prediction is he will be walking by Christmas.

He has made it known he has had it with food cut into small pieces, or any kind of substitute dinner. He will take the main entree, if you please. I need to work with him on using utensils - I think Clare could manage a spoon on her own by this point. Christopher knows what its for, but I wouldn't say he has any sort of control over it. He also knows what the remote to the TV is for. He holds it up and points it at the TV. I am sure he will be operating it before too long.

He still has the most kissable checks in the world. I plan to kiss them about 1,000 times a day until he doesn't let me do it any more.

You'll be shocked to learn that it is hard to get a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old to pose for a picture together.

Eh, not much better.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bits and Pieces: October

This fall has been so beautiful. On Monday, I had the screen door open and a T-shirt on while cooking dinner. I pretended it was summer. Clare wanted to go to an indoor playtime at a local gym and I told her no. We are playing outside as much as possible. We went to the Como Zoo instead.

Baby in leaves. Is anything cuter?
A few weeks ago we took a trip to an orchard near Hastings. It was a perfect fall day. We followed the orchard with a trip down Highway 35 in Wisconsin and had lunch at Nelson's Creamery. I remember when I was a kid my parents would force us to go on drives in the country to look at the fall colors, which we only agreed to because we were promised ice cream. Now I am doing the exact same thing. It is funny how we turn into our parents in ways both large and small.

Kids in pumpkin patch. Just as cute as baby in leaves?


I celebrated birthday number 35 a few weeks ago. This year was so much better than last year, when I was sleep deprived and worried sick about Christopher's surgery. I went out to dinner with my sister at Red Cow in St. Paul. It was delicious. Ben and I had a date night/birthday celebration a few days later at Craftsman in Minneapolis. Also delicious. We really need to find a babysitter so we can have date nights more often. (Katie and Andrew graciously helped us out on this occasion.)


Ben's Dad came over to carve a pumpkin with Clare. She loved it. She carefully drew a face on her pumpkin (admittedly, it was a bit abstract), and helped scoop out the goop. She didn't want to touch the pumpkin's insides with her hands, though. Luckily, she is good with a spoon.

We put Mr. Jack O'Lantern in the garage, hoping to protect it from the squirrels. Instead we had pumpkin soup when we took it out on Halloween. Oops. Luckily, Clare didn't remember that we were supposed to put it out. Her mind was on one track: candy.


Clare has had some delightful fashions lately.

And this one. She is wearing her Christmas dress underneath the blue polka dot dress. Which is on backwards.

The fashion plate at the Como Zoo.


Halloween was really fun this year. Last year, Clare was timid, not wanting to talk to neighbors or trick or treat. This year, she was all for it. She charged from door to door, collecting as much candy as she could. (Yes, I am sure the candy was a huge incentive.) Halloween morning, we went to a party at my friend Sabrina's house. It was really fun, seeing all the kids in their costumes. The best one by far was my friend's son who went as a garbage truck. It was a great costume. Certainly not something I could ever make myself. His younger brother went as a trash can.

We all ate lots of sugar. It was a good day. Oh, and Clare dressed as a butterfly princess, while Christopher went as a strawberry. Did a lot of people think he was a girl? Yes. Do I care? No.

Hope everyone had a great October!

I made Clare's wand. As you can tell, I am not crafty at all.

By the way, her wand spelled words, just like Princess P's on Super Why.

Cute face painting courtesy of Sabrina. Costume courtesy of Barbara and Iain Innes. Your Christmas present from last year went to good use!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kiddo's First Conference

Me: "Clare, it's time to go upstairs for quiet time now."

Clare, not turning around: "I can't understand you."

Me: "What."

Clare: "I can't understand you. That's why I am not listening to you."

Okay, I had to laugh. There is a certain logic to it, isn't there? If she pretends she can't understand, then she doesn't have to do what I say.

We had Clare's first preschool conference last night. The teacher had good things to say, of course. Clare loves art and follows directions well. (Which I was happy to hear, because she frequently does not follow directions well at home.) She knows her colors and shapes (except, inexplicably, the circle. At least, she refused to tell her teacher the name of that particular shape. I am pretty sure she knows what a circle is). She needs some work on holding pencils and scissors. She really can't cut with scissors at all, actually. She switches hands frequently when writing, so maybe she is left-handed and needs left-handed scissors? I don't know. She is only three, right? She'll figure it out.

Her teacher also said that she notices Clare kind of "drifting off" during rug time, which I am sure stems from boredom. She focuses fine on things she is interested in, like "Daniel Tiger" and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." Or the 100 books she reads each day. Anyway, school is going well. Despite my worries earlier this year, I think we made the right choice.

We've been in a good place behavior-wise since school started, too. I think being in a more specific routine has helped.

I spent a morning at her school a few weeks ago. Beforehand, she informed me she didn't want me to come. "It's my school," she said. "I'll go by myself and then tell you about it later."  I think she was glad I was there, though, despite her initial protestations.

I am glad she loves school. And I am sure she will figure out what a circle is before she graduates from high school.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


We threw a first birthday bash for Christopher at our house, on his actual birthday. He had fun, although he was incredibly confused when we were singing happy birthday. He was definitely wondering what the heck we were doing.

His guests included all four of his grandparents, both of my grandmothers, Great Aunt Karen, Aunt Katie and Uncle Andrew, his second cousin Gavin, his Godparents Missy and Nate (parents of Gavin), and friends James, Simon, Brendan, Rowan, Fern and Reed and their parents. I was so happy both of my grandmothers could be there. My grandma Clara (Clare's name sake), had never been to my house before. That she was able to make the trip from La Crosse was really special. My grandma Jean came with my parents, so we got her for the whole weekend. It was so nice.

Christopher didn't really care about his presents, but Clare was more than happy to "help" him open them. That lucky girl got some gifts herself, too.

We ate sandwiches and cake and washed it down with beer and juice boxes. It was fun to celebrate Christopher with so many of his family and friends, and to celebrate making it through year one.

Oh, and Christopher was pretty happy with the cake. Somehow, I don't have a picture of him eating it. Next year!

With Great Grandma Clara.
Clare and Meema Jo.
Kids and Great Grandma Jean.
Opening presents. (He proceeded to try to eat the wrapping paper.)
Birthday boy.