December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas this year was delightful. It was the epitome of low key, as it has been for years now since my Aunt Lea and Grandma H passed away. I can certainly see how a big, chaotic, family Christmas would be fun (we did it for years with my dad's side of the family when I was young), but truthfully I cherish the quiet, laid back Christmases we've had the past decade or so.

This year was a lot more fun than last year. Audia is obviously older and much more aware of what's going on. She also now sleeps in a crib, which means Mommy and Daddy got to enjoy their Christmas eve past 7 PM. LOL.
Dinner on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were fantastic, as per usual. And of course the cookies, pie, and fudge were delicious as well!
Helping Pappy cook dinner on Christmas Eve

Audia got all kinds of fun presents this year. It's always been a tradition in my family to open gifts from the family on Christmas Eve and save Christmas morning for presents from Santa. Audia woke up Christmas morning to (among other things) a shopping cart and Elmo Live, which is a fully animatronic Elmo doll. She LOVES him. He sings songs, tells jokes and stories, and blows kisses. She carries him around with her everywhere!

Audia's not so sure about those Santa Bears....

Grandma helping Audia open her new clock toy

Playing with her new bus

Checking out her new Mega Blocks

Family Portrait

Giving Elmo a hug

I was kind of worried about overdoing it with the toys, but I have totally come around. Audia loves them all, and did not have any sort of melt down regardless of the plethora of shiny new things to play with. Thank goodness!

Of course Chris and I got all kinds of nice gifts as well. My bigger gifts were three studio lights, complete with stands, reflectors, and umbrellas. Pretty cool! I am excited to put them to use!

It was a very very White Christmas this year; it started snowing the evening of the 23rd and didn't stop for close to 72 hours. As you can see by the photo below, the snow banks at the street are up to Chris' waist. He's 6 foot 6 inches tall, so that's nothing to scoff at!

Not only did the snow make for a beautiful Christmas, but it is going to make for some very fun Snow Bocce Ball! Now if only we could find some waterproof mittens in Audia's size......we have a couple of pairs of fleece ones, but they don't do much in protecting her from the snow!

December 19, 2009

Smarty Pants and Coffee Cozys

Audia's been talking up a storm these days. It truly amazes me how quickly she picks up on things. Last week in the bathroom she pointed at my curling iron (which she hasn't seen in months) and said "hot!" The only thing I can figure is that I must have, at some point, told her that my mom's curling iron (which she sees every night on the counter when she takes her bath) is hot. Hot has now become her word for everything that she's not supposed to touch. Just this past week she's started saying two syllable words and phrases. She says "Hot dog" and "Santa" (which comes out more like "Ahn-ta"), and a few times I've gotten her to repeat "I love you" ("I lom ooh"). She says "Pehs" for "please", "Fake" for "flake" and "Hahs" for "house." It seems like every day she's picked up a new word and learned how to use it. It blows my mind! She is definitely a smarty pants!

She's been really great with the Christmas tree, which we put up last weekend. We have a gaggle of child-friendly ornaments from when I was a kid, which we've put around the bottom third of the tree. She walks up to it and points at each one, wanting us to tell her what they all are. She also regularly points at the lights on the tree and says "hot" :-)
She also loves Christmas music. Everytime I put in a CD, she runs over to me and says "up! up!" I pick her up, and she then starts bouncing and giggling in my arms; her way of enticing me to dance her around the room to the music. Whenever a song stops, she signs 'more'. She really is such a happy, joyous kid. And such a joy to be around!

We are really looking forward to Christmas this year, in spite of our financial limitations. This year will be Audia's first "real" Christmas in my opinion; She was only 3 months old last year, so she didn't really know what was going on. I can't wait to see her open all of her presents!

I've been continuing my knitting frenzy, and have had a lot of fun creating a pattern for coffee cozies the past couple of weeks. I've gotten pretty good at making them, and am considering opening a shop on Etsy to sell some of them. What do you think?

December 6, 2009

Crafty Christmas

So, I've been in a very hands-on, do-it-myself, crafty mood the past few months. Partially because we're trying to be frugal, and partially because I am so much happier, and feel so much more balanced, when I have a project to work on; something in which I can see and measure progress. I think it is important to stay creative in life, especially if you have a desire to create. It keeps the mind active, the soul awake, and the hands busy. Plus, if you get good enough at a specific craft, you can make some great gifts for family and friends :-)

Below are just a sample of my more recent creations.

December 5, 2009

Santa, Turkey, Family, and Life as a Single Mom

The week of Turkey Day, N and I took Audia and A to have their photo taken with Santa. We did this last year, and hopefully it will be a tradition for years to come. It was quite the spectacle; A started screaming as soon as N put her in Santa's lap, and Audia sat there, looking at A as if to say "what is the problem?" We got a great photo (note the sarcasm), which I'm sure we will hear about when the girls are older :-)

We had a very nice Thanksgiving here at the C/H/C-B house (yes, we have three last names living under one roof. Legally, we actually have four. Ah, the complications of strong, independent women being married to understanding, forward-thinking men!)
Chris' parents drove up from Illinois to join in the fun and spend some quality time with the most adorable, sweet, and all around entertaining granddaughter on the face of the planet. Audia seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself, and we were all pleasantly suprised that she did not have any sort of meltdown despite staying up 2+ hours past her bedtime. The food was, of course, DELISH! Smoked turkey, wild mushroom dressing, cauliflower soufflé, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed taters and turkey gravy, crescent rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie....all made from scratch. No canned soups or boxed taters for this family. 'Twas fantabulous. My cousin and his family stopped by for dessert; it was really nice to see them. When I was younger, we used to get together with all the cousins on my dad's side of the family pretty regularly, but as time has gone on and people have moved out of MN, we've seen less and less of them. Quite sad, really.

Black Friday was spent avoiding shopping venues of any sort. We went with Chris' parents to the Como Zoo and Conservatory. Audia loved it even more this time than last time; now that she's a pro walker, she got to walk almost the entire time, and had so much fun picking up leaves off the walkway and handing them to Chris. She is proving to be quite a good picker-upper; she puts laundry in the hamper without being asked to, and puts garbage in the garbage also. She even likes helping put her toys away; that is until she gets distracted by a toy and forgets that we're cleaning up :-)

On Tuesday, Chris left for Illinois again to work for his dad. He'll be gone until a week from yesterday....11 days total, which feels like FOREVER! But things have been going well so far; Audia's maturity level allows for a much easier time for me than the first couple times Chris went out there. She's overall much more independent, and listens a lot better when I ask her not to do something. It also helps that I have such great friends out here, all offering to break up the monotony by meeting up for coffee, lunch, dinner, and drinks. It certainly is nice to have such a large group of cool people to hang out with!! :-) XOXO to every one of you.

Well, Christmas is just around the corner, so I've been crafting up a storm lately. I'll post some photos of said crafts here in a day or two....nothing too amazing, but all things that make me happy. You know what they say about idle hands!

November 16, 2009

14 month (or so) update

Audia hit the 14 month mark last Sunday, and I realize that since her first birthday, I haven't really written a whole lot about her milestones since September. A big part of that is because she is growing and changing so darn fast that who has time to document it all?! But I will try, because that is what this blog's purpose really is. So that some day, when Audia is older and interested in such things, she can look back and learn all about how she grew and changed and developed into the amazing person that she is.

So, based on our measurements, she is 22.5 lbs and is still 31" long. She has been teething on and off for what feels like months now; about a month ago her upper first molars broke the gum, and we had a little lull in teething, and then about a week ago it started up again. As of today, both her right upper and right lower canines have broken through, and her lower first molars are trying their best to show themselves; her gums are super swollen and obviously uncomfortable, and as a result our sleep schedules have been a bit lackluster.

Aside from the past week, however, her sleep schedule has been awesome. She's been in a crib since I blogged about sleep training her, and now she has no problem letting me or Chris put her down at night; she's asleep in 20 minutes regardless. She goes down around 7 or 7:30 and gets up around 6, at which point we bring her into bed with us and she sleeps until 8 or 9. It would not surprise me if a lot of toddlers who are "early risers" would actually sleep in if their parents just brought them into bed with them for the early morning....Audia is up with the sun, but give her a little snuggle time and she's out like a light again for another 2 or 3 hours.
She's on a one nap schedule for the most part (again, ignoring the past week of torturous teething hell), sleeping for one to two hours around lunchtime.

Weaning has been a bit slower of a process than I was hoping it would be. We have successfully gotten her from 4 breast feedings a day to 3, but she still asks for a fourth feeding pretty regularly; we just distract her with other food items. She isn't really interested in whole milk; she drinks maybe an ounce or two before becoming bored with the whole thing. I don't want to make an issue of it yet, though. Age 2 is my absolute limit, but I am willing to go slow up until that point. She says "num num num num" whenever she is hungry, which totally cracks me up. She still LOVES her green vegetables; it is so funny to me that she loves the veggies that it took me a good 26 years to start enjoying. She is a carbaholic. She is constantly munching on cheerios, puffs, bread, pasta, and rice. She is a huge fan of meat, just like her carnivorous mama. She loves deli ham, organic nitrate-free hot dogs and bacon, chicken breast, my dad's smoked ribs, hamburger, rib name it! She also is a huge fan of pears, apples, and bananas (which she calls "bun"), but not such a big fan of berries. Stonyfield farms makes a line of yogurt called 'Yobaby' which she also LOVES. Her favorite is the 3-in-1 apple and sweet potato.

She is discovering new things every day. She is running now on a regular basis, and loves being chased...she will look at you and start running away from you while still looking and smiling at you to try to get you to chase her. This often results in her running into things because she's not looking where she's going. She is so close to figuring out both how to jump and how to do a somersault that it's scary. She really enjoys practicing going up the stairs from the basement to the main level; she has yet to figure out how to get back down, though! She loves taking the magnets from the fridge and putting them, one-by-one, onto the dishwasher, and then putting them back. She's obsessed with books. She will take one and will sit on the floor and flip through the pages while babbling loudly to herself (reading aloud, I'm sure!) She points at any clock she sees (analog OR digital) and says "tick tick tick!"; she loves when you hold one up to her ear. She calls all animals "arf arf"; we are working on teaching her other animal sounds but she really has locked in on the doggy sound. (Maybe because 99% of her stuffed animals are dogs??) She especially LOVES the outdoors. She is hating her stroller right now because she would much rather be running free around the back yard than sitting idly in her stroller while we walk around the block; we can be outside, playing, for 45 minutes in the 50 degree weather, and she will still throw a tantrum if we try to bring her inside to warm up.

Watching her grow and learn is so ridiculously fun. It just makes so many other things in life seem so trivial in comparison. She truly is my reason for living, my pride and joy, everything that is good and exciting and wonderful in life! She is a willful, active, curious, handful of a child and I am proud to say so!
Happy 14 month birthday, Munchkin!

November 13, 2009

Tag! I'm it!

I have been tagged by my friend Anita! I haven't filled out a survey in what feels like ages (but has probably, more realistically, been maybe a year), but here goes!

1) What were you doing 10 years ago?

10 years ago, I was a senior in high school. I had to consult my journals from that era (See, mom? There is a reason to keep all my old journals! hah!) to find out what was going on back then (and boy, what a trip down memory lane that was!) In November of 1999, I went to Ohio to visit Kenyon and Denison Universities (totally fell in love with Kenyon until I visited ASU, at which point the gorgeous weather became way more important than the school itself.....but hey! At least I admit it!) and I travelled with my HS sweetheart and a whole gaggle of our friends, (and the entire HS marching band) to Orlando to march at Disney World! Basically, I was having a total blast 10 years ago, in ways that high school seniors should be having a blast.

2) What five things are on your to-do list for today?

Well, today is almost over, but I'll list them off anyways.
A) Do laundry! *Check!*
B) Put glitter on the pretty snowball ornaments I started last night *Check!*
C) Bake dismembered Friday the 13th cookies *No Check....what with Audia waking up late and a surprise play date with N and A, alas, I did not have time to bake my cookies.*
D) Edit photos from my shoot this past weekend to put up on my ECB site *Not checked. I will do this tomorrow, though!*
E) Watch a scary movie in honor of Friday the 13th. *This will happen. Audia's not in bed yet though, so it will be a while yet.*

3) Snacks you enjoy:

Hmmm. I'm not a huge snacker, admittedly. But I do like Planters dry roasted peanuts, pistachios, warm, roasted hazelnuts, sunflower seeds.......I'm a big nut lover, I guess! LOL. I also like occasional Cheetos and cheddar popcorn. And buttered popcorn at the movies :-)

4). Places you've lived:

I grew up in South Minneapolis, which I loved. Spent 6 months of 5th grade living in Stockholm, Sweden, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; it is a HUGE part of who I am today, without a doubt. My teenage years were spent in Edina, MN (aka the bubble), and from age 18 through age 26, I lived in various parts of Phoenix, AZ. We're back in Edina for the time being, but I am totally open to living in various parts of the Twin Cities, as well as moving to Toronto or Stockholm.

5). What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

Gosh, wouldn't that be nice? LOL. Let's see...
A) I would pay off all of our debts, as well as any debts our immediate family members may have.
B) I'd buy us a house.
C) I'd put away enough money to ensure we, our parents, and our kids will have a full education, if wanted, and a secure retirement.
D) I'd purchase a cabin near Chris' family cabin and pay for any repairs or upgrades needed at the family cottage.
E) I'd put away a good amount to be donated anonymously throughout the years to various charities and people who may need it. More so families than charities, honestly, because I think it is easier to gauge the level of need and whether or not your money is going to be spent wisely when it comes to individuals than when it comes to organizations.

So, time to pass the ball! I'm going to tag my friends Janice and Sarah, both of whom I am sure are way too busy for such shinanigans, but who I hope will partake in the fun regardless :-)

November 8, 2009

The world's best paying job

"Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love." -Mildred B. Vermont

It was implied to me recently by someone that being a stay at home parent isn't having a "real" job. And thus, stay at home parents shouldn't ever feel like they need a vacation.

Now, obviously the person who said this does not have children. However, I don't really feel like it should take having a child to understand that being a parent, stay at home or not, is a HUGE job. All it should take to understand this is a little bit of thought. Just think for two seconds about it! It is a bigger responsibility (or, it should be) than anything else in the world. Before we had Audia, I didn't realize how big of a responsibility it would actually be, but I did know that it was a big responsibility. How a person could not know that is beyond me. I am torn between feeling really sorry for these people and being really PO'd. (I am also torn between hoping that they have children so that they understand and hoping that they never have children because what if they still don't understand what a big responsibility it is after they have kids??)

When I say that I feel like I need a vacation, I am in no way saying that I wish I weren't a mom or that I have any regrets about having a child. I am happier, as a mom, and especially as a stay at home mom, than I have ever been in my life. I feel more fulfilled, more in love, more rewarded, more appreciated, and more grateful than I ever felt pre-child. But I also feel more worrisome, more anxious, and more exhausted than ever before.

Being a parent (especially being stay at home) is constant. It is every second of every day, eight days a week, 365 days a year. There is no leaving work at work when you are a stay at home mom. And I take my job as a mom very seriously. I am more invested in it than I have ever been in anything. That's why I am a stay at home mom! Because I do not feel comfortable having a child and then, in her most crucial years, paying someone else to bond with and teach and play with her. (This is not to say I do not understand why some people choose to put their kids in day care; I totally do. It's just not my choice for my child.) So we have made sacrifices in order to ensure that our daughter is as well taken care of as humanly possible. They are sacrifices I would make 20 times over. And, yes, they are our choices. But that doesn't mean we don't get to feel like we need a break every now and then. Good grief!

I heard a celebrity (I can't remember who) say recently that when she had her first child, it was like every cell in her body woke up to love that child. And it's true! I totally feel that way. It's like the day Audia was born was the day I was born again - as a mother. Everything I do is for her. Every choice I make boils down to what I think is best for her. For anyone to imply that my choice to be a stay at home mom is 'easy' or 'lazy' is not only completely clueless, but it is incredibly insulting. They're fighting words, and I dare you to find any other stay at home parent anywhere who wouldn't agree!

"All mothers are working mothers." - Author Unknown

October 28, 2009


I LOVE Halloween. This year, Halloween seems even more fun to me than it has the past few years; not because I didn't have fun before, but because of the anticipation. I know I mentioned this in a previous post, but the change of the seasons seriously gets me excited for the holidays!!

One of my favorite parts of Halloween (aside from all the great scary movies on TV) is carving pumpkins! I am obsessed. Seriously. We spent a couple of days this weekend carving pumpkins, and even though it took quite a while (it takes a bit longer when you have a little monkey to chase around!), I am seriously having to stop myself from running out and buying more pumpkins to carve!

N and A came over one day and we had a play date/pumpkin carving afternoon. I made pumpkin patterns for us of Audia and A's faces. I had read somewhere online that you can use wood carving tools (which thankfully I still have from my printmaking days at ASU!) to carve away the skin of the pumpkin so that you can have multiple shades rather than just the black-and-white style of pumpkin pattern, so I used photoshop to turn this:
into this: The carving part took quite a bit longer than I had estimated. N and I were laughing pretty much the whole time we were carving together because of how silly it seemed that we had decided to try to tackle such a project, especially while simultaneously watching our toddlers. But, a day and probably about 4 or 5 hours worth of carving later, I had this:

It turned out much better than I thought it would, and now that I've done one, I certainly have a lot better of an idea of how to make it work even better next year! Yes, that's right; I fully intend to carve a pumpkin with Audia's face on it every year until she tells me to stop. :-) Unfortunately, the squirrels ate her eyes even though we sprayed the pumpkins with red pepper spray before putting them outside. They'll stay in the garage until Halloween. Boy, am I ever glad I photographed them when I did!
We carved a couple of other pumpkins as well. What do you think?

Chris' pumpkin, side 1

Chris' pumpkin, side 2

Owl Pumpkin

Kitty Pumpkin

Our Pumpkin Family!

October 22, 2009

Lucky Ladies

If you know me pretty well, you'll know either by hearing about it, or by experience, that my dad is an amazing chef. He has always done all the cooking and baking in the house (unless you count mac and cheese or scrambled eggs, which my mom used to make when he was away on business), and he has always done it incredibly well. And it's not just me and my mom who think so; there is no bias here just because he's my daddy. Friends and family always rave about his cooking. He knows his way around the kitchen like no one else I've ever met in my life, and has always been a stickler for using fresh ingredients (a third of the time, grown by himself), and making things from scratch. I grew up incredibly spoiled in the food department (as well as a few other departments, admitedly).

When Chris and I started dating, we went out to eat a lot. I made dinner a few times; things I had mastered over the years after trying to replicate my dad's recipe's when I moved away. And Chris cooked once or twice, but for the most part we had pizza or take out or ate out. But when we moved in together, Chris started trying his hand at cooking more frequently, and me less frequently, and over time he became 'the cook' of our household. I do breakfasts and baking from time to time, but he is our dinner chef. And over the years, he's gotten really good at it.

Because of how gradually it kind of happened, and how I am used to having the man of the house cook, I frequently take for granted how lucky I really am that Chris not only is willing to, and enjoys, cooking, but that he has become such a good chef.

Since we are living with my folks for a while, Chris and my dad trade off dinner duty, and it has been such a treat! Now that Audia is eating solid foods, I am so happy that we are able to introduce her to such a wide range of good, healthy, unprocessed food. They say the key to getting kids to eat well is to lead by example and start young, and I can't think of a better situation for her to be in. Add to that the fact that she's going to also grow up with a father who loves to, and is great at cooking. We are two seriously lucky ladies!

Get a load of the Chicken Bacon Roulades that Chris tried making for the first time last night (and were DELICIOUS!!!):

October 19, 2009

Fun Weekend

Well, the weather has warmed up a bit, and we took advantage by having a delightful weekend with some great friends!

On Friday, we had a play date with N and A. A and Audia are so funny together. They were stealing eachothers snacks, and sharing toys. They are not quite to the stage where they actually play together but they are still a bit young for that, I think, and the social interaction is good for them. I have high hopes that they will be the best of friends one day!

On Saturday evening, we went with N, D, and A to Zoo Boo at the Como Zoo.
There were close to 200 Como volunteers in costumes ranging from wild animals to pirates to Star Wars characters. The girls seemed a little confused by all the people in strange outfits, but I think they had fun regardless, and of course we adults enjoyed seeing our little ones dressed up! It was especially fun to see the guy in the Darth Vader costume. When we were deciding on a costume for Audia, my mom thought it would be most appropriate to dress Audia as Darth Vader, but I think we'll let her decide whether or not she wants to be Vader when she's old enough to understand the silly story behind her baby shower cake. For now, this photo of us with Vader will suffice :-)

(I love how she's looking up at him as if to say "are you my daddy?")

On Sunday, we went with friends J and A to the Walker. I was shocked (and delighted) at how not busy the place was, but a bit disappointed in their exhibitions. It was fun regardless of the lack of neat-o exhibitions, though. Audia's favorite part was the sculpture garden. Now that she's walking, she's less fond of being carted around in her stroller, so when we finally set her down in the grass, she started running all over the place! Parenting a fully mobile child certainly is a different beast than parenting a partially mobile one, let me tell you! Especially when that fully mobile child is as willfull as our little monkey. :-)

October 12, 2009

Let it snow?

We had our first snow on Saturday morning. It was only a little, but enough to cover the ground. It was melted by noonish. Last night and this morning, however, we've had our second snow. And it's a lot. And it's 11 am and it is still snowing. It's the thick, wet kind of snow that makes it look like it's a lot deeper than it actually is. The sticky kind that clings to everything and makes you want to run outside and make a snow man right now!

On Saturday morning, I was in a bit of a shock at the sight of it. It's early for snow. By at least 2 or 3 weeks, based on my memory. But this morning, waking up to this:

And seeing how excited and curious Audia is when she looks outside (she keeps pointing and saying "Ess! Ess!" which is pretty much her word for anything that starts with the letter 'S' {shoes, socks...and now, snow}), I am less shocked and more excited. Seeing the fluffy stuff has awaken in me a type of excitement I haven't felt in 9 years. An excitement that I had thought had died with age and maturity (but apparently had simply gone into hibernation due to the warm climate I was living in). The early, bouncing, magical, wonderous excitement for the holidays!
Is it a little early, being only mid-October? Sure. I'll give you that. But I am simply excited that I have my excitement back! Growing up in a place that has seasons, I learned to anticipate things based on the weather, on the changing of the seasons. When I moved to AZ, I lost that anticipation. Every day pretty much felt the same. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all came too quickly and were over before I knew it. They didn't feel like the holidays I remembered from when I was younger.
Don't get me wrong, I love AZ. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so the 330-340 days of sun a year were fantastic. But I haven't had this deep-down, tingly, buzzing excitement about the holidays in almost a decade. And I think it's a decent trade off for the 6 months of winter we might end up having this year.

In other news, Chris got back from IL last night and boy, are Audia and I ever glad to have him back!! Audia's walking has improved so much in the last week, her daddy was amazed to see how well she's walking even on uneven ground. We had some fun playtime in the leaves last night in anticipation of this morning's snow. She loved having Chris set her in the middle of the big pile, and then throwing herself back so that she sank into the leaves. She kept doing it over and over again. When we finally went inside, she continued to point outside and sign 'more'. :-) She truly is an outdoor girl.