Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

This is the post where we remind ourselves that reality does not always match a Martha Stewart magazine feature (and by we I mean just me) and reducing personal expectations can be quite a relief. This is our year to have the kids for Christmas. It's always wonderful to have them together, and this is the first Christmas that we've celebrated with just our little family. It's been really fun to think about what traditions we want to keep and what we want to change. I'm not sure that what we ended up with looked anything at all like our previous family traditions but I actually think that may be a good thing. It's nice to establish your own thing.

The celebrations began with Oregon/BYU basketball. Jim took the girls and I babysat for the friends sitting just to the right of him so they could have a date night. She and I are both preggers, though about a month apart. It was a win/win since I don't really love stadium stairs or seats right about now. As fate would have it, they were all on television during a time out. One of Jim's young men saw it and took a screen shot, which has by now gone viral in our world of about 5-6 concerned parties.

The primary kids did a nativity pageant during sharing time on Sunday. Since I'm in junior primary for one more week I was able to see Ellie. I've got to say that this was cute, but the highlight of church was when Darion outed his brother and disclosed to the entire room that Joel has a crush on Ellie. Joel is on the far left, and this was not exactly news to either Ellie or me. It was however downright awesome and brought some entertaining giggles from the other kids and adults around.

I didn't have the energy to make gingerbread so the girls and I made graham cracker houses on Christmas Eve instead. They had a great time and accommodated my no-snacking-on-candy-till-we're-all-done request far better than I'd expected. I caved long before they did.

The plan for the day was to get up (still in our Christmas Eve jammies), open Santa gifts, and then have coconut waffles from this recipe we're completely obsessed with. Even Ellie liked them, but we were stealthy and didn't let her know there was coconut involved until after she had eaten them. It worked and she actually liked them. After breakfast we planned to proceed to the rest of the gifts. It was far less torturous than the wait until all adults are up, showered, dressed and have eaten, then search for your hidden stocking patterns I grew up with. I will say Christmas morning lasts far longer the other way though.

Our tree was pretty sad this year. My little Black Friday special prelit tree purchased in years gone by with no space or money is starting to run it's little life to the ground. The bottom strand of lights no longer works at all, and frankly it's not tempting to sit and test each and every bulb just to get it lit again. Nor do I care to go out and buy lights to slap on top. This is perhaps the most obvious difference in my attitude this year. Normally, it would drive me crazy until I did something about it. This year my mind is on so many other things that it's become very low priority to me. I'll worry about it next year when I'm not pregnant or insane. Unless of course I'm still insane. I think next year I may splurge on a tree stand so we can take advantage of the gorgeous and affordable fresh Christmas trees at least once while we live in Oregon.

Aeryn's major Santa gifts included this Monster High high school set up and a Monster High toybox.

Ellie didn't want to take a moment to look at me as she was far too excited... but she got a new scooter and a soft knotted quilt kit as her larger Santa gifts.

These few phone pictures are pretty much the extent of our Christmas documentation this year. Now at 37.5 weeks I'm dealing with a lot of swelling and battling carpel tunnel as a result. It's definitely not my favorite thing, and really affects what I'm able to do. I woke this morning and picked up the camera to realize that I hadn't enough strength or feeling in my hands to hold it, let alone take pictures. It was discouraging, but honestly made it much easier to just be in the moment and forget about separating myself as a photojournalistic observer. I love having nice pictures, but sometimes I also love not worrying about it and being a part of normal life.

We got the kids Lego Rock Band and are using it as pretty much a karaoke deal until we get all the instruments from Jim's parents house. We also have the Beatles version. They love it. There are few things funnier than the kids trying to sing songs they have never heard.

After the insanity of the day was done (nice and early), we just hung around and enjoyed a quite relaxed pace for the rest of the day. I had to laugh when I saw that Ellie wanted to spend almost an hour playing with this wind up Lego car that I've had since I was a kid. Her favorite gifts today included a small Rudolph toy she'd asked for specifically, and a soccer goal and goalie gloves from her dad. It was only 36 here today so she didn't stay outside with either the scooter or the soccer stuff for very long.

Aeryn spent the majority of the day playing with her Monster High high school set up. Jim picked this one out too (for Santa, since he sometimes wants suggestions) so I'd say he is the yearly winner for favorite gift selector. He seriously rocked it.

It was fantastic. There was no stress, I took a nap, Jim went running, and the girls got to eat junk food and run amok most of the day. In a year or so I'm sure I'll care about being Martha again, but for this year low key has been delightful and quite a relief. Now that the 25th is over and we know we won't end up with a Christmas baby, we're a little more anxious for that adventure to start.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Peppermint Patties

Yesterday we got notice from Aeryn's school principal that there would be no school today. Honestly, I just about lost my mind. There was no school Friday and it was great fun, then Saturday nothing had melted and we couldn't go anywhere, on Sunday church was cancelled, and it was still below freezing when we woke today so there was no improvement. I vented on Facebook about being tired of being stuck at home and this morning a friend bailed me out in her husband's truck complete with chains. We took a quick trip to Kohl's, Target, and Sonic and my sanity has started to return. I can't tell you how good it feels just to get out of the house! I'd stayed in all last week because Aeryn and I had planned a girls day out for Friday so I was already burned out on being home by the time the snow hit. I guess this is good practice for having a newborn.

Needless to say, we've all needed to be busy. Jim made some awesome white chocolate coconut macadamia nut fudge (or something like that. I just call it delicious.), I made yet another batch of toffee, and Aeryn and I tried homemade peppermint patties. We got the filling made and frozen yesterday, then dipped them in chocolate today.

I've not dipped many things before, and I don't think Aeryn ever had. She did a great job, even if my OCD and control-freak nature kicked in and I tried to micromanage the process.

We only made a half batch, which is plenty for our family, but it meant I wasn't sure it I'd bought enough dipping chocolate. I did have to supplement with chocolate chips, but it all worked out in the end.

We even managed to keep a reasonably tidy kitchen! It's delightful. Nesting (or rather obsessing) has been kicking in and I am really particular about the house lately. I keep feeling that if I can't keep it the way I want when I'm just pregnant there is no way I'll be content with it once I'm even more sleep deprived and otherwise occupied. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm SO GLAD we did this and that we managed to keep it under control. Aeryn had a lot of fun dipping the patties and she tried so hard to do it just the way I wanted.

Taste test.... any guesses how they were received?

Success. It was a fun process with a tasty outcome. Luckily it's less than 10 degrees below freezing now, sunny, and the icy covering on the streets is finally melting, so we can all return to normal life tomorrow and stop making sweets continually.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snowed In

Oregon doesn't see a lot of snow, at least not where we are. When it does snow, it typically doesn't last very long. In the past two winters we've had maybe two snowy days each year and the snow has been wet and slushy, melting into a bizarre slurry of slushiness that then freezes into nasty sheets of black ice if it's still around at nightfall. This year we ended up with beautiful, dry, sparkly powder. 

Luckily, Squirt already had Friday off of school so it didn't disrupt our life that much. We were planning on doing some Holiday and girly shopping so our plans did alter when we chose to stay off the roads. Since snow is so rare, the city isn't really equipped to deal with it and instead of plowing the streets the residents just hole up for a while. 

Since it's a rare occurrence, kids get extraordinarily excited for it. We saw one of Aeryn's friends outside, bundled her up, and off she went.

This is her friend's mom showing her how to clip into the bindings on her friend's snowboard. Aeryn has never done this before and she was insanely thrilled about it.

They taught her that "it's all in the hips" and had her practice hopping and turning. After a few minutes the neighbor kids all headed across the parking lot to the park and the very little hill there to practice.

Aeryn has always been a late bloomer in the coordination and balance department (not unlike her mother) so I sometimes get nervous when she tries something new. Who am I kidding? That's not why. I'm a worrier and a nervous control freak. That's probably a more accurate reason.

She checked her bindings and then didn't hesitate at all to head downhill.

There wasn't enough of a slope to keep going very far. When she got stuck she did just what they had taught her and geared up for a little hop to change direction.

See? All in the hips.

And.... down but not out. She had a blast.

With below freezing temps all weekend and the beginning of the week, the snow isn't going anywhere for a few days. The sun is out today and it's glorious, but we've already been notified that church is cancelled tomorrow. There are enough families that live on dangerous hills and since the city doesn't really have the capability to plow well it becomes rather treacherous. So that's basically three sequential snow days, something I NEVER experienced living somewhere with regular snowfall. There are some definite perks in the "fun" department when snow is a rarity.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

50 Things I'm Thankful For v. 2013

This Thanksgiving has been quite different for me. I confess I haven't been terribly excited for it, mostly because I'm just tired. It's a pivotal moment in the checklist of things-that-happen-before-the-baby-comes though, so in that sense I've been really anxious for it to come. Plus, I really, really wanted to eat the smoked turkey Jim was making on the BBQ. He's pretty much the most awesome person ever and I love that he cooks such delicious food. I'm one lucky girl.

This week the kitchen has gradually worn me down. First, I was making pasta dough and the bottom part of the kitchen aid that holds the beater completely fell off into the bowl. Since this piece is compression fit at the factory there is no quick and easy fix. The part has to be ordered and then there is the labor to swap it out. It's going to be more than a hundred dollars to fix (but still less than the price of a new mixer) and is rather disappointing. I admit to feeling a surge of relief that there is a reason to not over commit myself to some mysterious baking agenda and have been much more accepting of the damage.

Then I tried to make a salted caramel tart, the base of which is a graham cracker crust. Long story short, I took a perfect crust out of the oven and set it on a burner to cool. In my haste to make the filling I turned on the wrong stove burner and didn't notice it until the crust, and the parchment beneath it, were on the verge of flames. That was definitely not what I hoped my house would smell like on Thanksgiving.

After that I ended up burning the caramel filling beyond recognition. When I decided to make a pumpkin mousse filling instead (since I didn't really have ingredients left for much else) I found that one of the beaters to my hand mixer had completely come apart. Have you tried to beat anything with only one beater? It is hardly effective, to say the least.

I ended up trying to make a filling using the dough hooks for the hand mixer and while the end result was fairly tasty, the consistency was not what I hoped and it seemed like a mediocre standby to me. I blame pregnancy brain, even if that's a cheap shot. I can't seriously be this goofed up on my own. The thought that this accurately represents my kitchen competency is too much for me to bear.

I've been in a bit of a sick-of-being-pregnant funk lately so it's about time I begin this year's list. Remembering how much I have to be thankful for always helps me refocus.

50 Things I'm Thankful For v. 2013

  1. A healthy body. It may not always do what I want without protest, but I'm so thankful for it and the capabilities I have as a result
  2. Getting kicked in the ribs, and the way it reminds me every day what a miracle it is to grow a person
  3. Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles
  4. A husband who is far and away a better match for me than I ever dreamed I would find 
  5. Two beautiful girls, who keep me on my toes and challenge me in every possible way 
  6. Getting to be nursery leader at church for the better part of this year. I miss it every single week
  7. Living in a place that is naturally green and beyond description beautiful 
  8. Kite flying at the coast
  9. Date nights with my husband, where we can pretend for a time that outside demands are non-existent 
  10. Artistic, creative friends who continually inspire and motivate me to indulge my own creative sensibilities
  11. Health Insurance
  12. Pillows. Lots and lots of pillows 
  13. Hot water heaters; my favorite invention of all time
  14. Hand-me-down baby clothes 
  15. The power of sunshine to heal the soul
  16. A mother who let me know beyond a shadow of doubt that I was the most important thing in her world 
  17. Access to our apartment community room for whatever gathering we feel like planning 
  18. Target clearance sales
  19. Walking away from a gorgeous marble cake plate on clearance at Target just this week
  20. My iphone still working, even though I dropped it in water and had a minor panic attack 
  21. The many National Park adventures the hubs and I have been able to have 
  22. The ability to pursue education
  23. Selling things on Craigslist and feeling like less of a slave to material possessions 
  24. Having a dishwasher 
  25. Mandatory recycling
  26. Vitamin Water
  27. Warm baths
  28. Pinterest, now that I've learned how to use it without letting it suck my life away
  29. Sweet Life Patisserie
  30. Beautiful cake plates
  31. Wild daffodils growing along I-5
  32. The Eugene Celebration parade
  33. Amazing friends we've met in grad school
  34. Learning that my camera and lens have limitations, meaning that the barriers to getting the shots I want are not all operator error
  35. Super Saturday
  36. The extreme diversity of this beautiful planet
  37. Opportunities to meet people from all over the world in student housing, and consequently to learn about how very many things I take for granted living in the United States
  38. Lotion
  39. Fleece blankets
  40. Bicycle traffic lights
  41. Clean water to drink
  42. Having never wondered where my family would find their next meal 
  43. Family bike rides in the summer
  44. Leather boots
  45. Three pairs of glasses in the right prescription, so there is always a style to fit my mood or a pair to wear when I misplace one of the others
  46. Banana Republic Visa card rewards
  47. Bird songs at any time of day along the Amazon Parkway Trail
  48. Ice cold drinking water
  49. Picking berries with my family
  50. Faith 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Lorax

Oh my goodness, I remember being a kid and being in little plays at school. Most notably was one in 6th grade where I was the wife of the lion king and I had to get mad at him about something or another. That's about all I can remember about the play other than I wore my favorite (ever) Easter dress. Tonight, I got to sit on the other end and watch the joy unfold on the faces of little people.

Aeryn's school is rather unique in that they have a homeroom class for language arts, then they do project classes that mix students and teachers of various grades as well as have a community time which is also inter-grade. Aeryn has learned about mythology, built rockets, learned about rumba music and dance, written poetry, and many other things in the project class time. It's really a neat way for the teachers to explore something they have a personal connection to and may not have a lot of time to dedicate to in class. The kids get exposure to a wide range of people and experiences, and frankly it's a lot of fun.

Her current project class has been putting together a play of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax and tonight was their performance.

She has been a bit spazzy due to the excitement of it.  I can't say I blame her, but I do think when I got upset this afternoon because she was stuffing clean clothes under the bed instead of putting them on hangars it all went in one ear and out the other because she was so preoccupied.

She got to be a Barbaloot. They crawled around the Truffula Tree forest eating fruit from the trees. Until the trees were chopped down, of course, and then all the Barbaloots got to become Thneed knitters.

She painted the mask this afternoon and we dried it in the oven so she could wear it tonight. She is also wearing a maternity dress a friend gave me because we didn't have any other brown clothes. She didn't care at all... when I finally told her (after the play) that it was a pregnant-lady-dress, she got far more excited than I care to remember. It reminded me of earlier today when I allowed myself to look through the drawers of my non-maternity clothes and I was beyond excited about how cute they are. It's funny how not wearing things for 6 months has made them all so much more appealing.

Throughout the play she had a big smile on her face. It was great to see her so happy! I've wondered if theater might be something she pursues in middle and high school and even though there is no way to tell at this point, it sure looked like she was having an amazing time. The fact that she asked at least two dozen times afterward "was it awesome, mom?" just confirms that.

I love this motherhood thing. I know that being a parent isn't for everyone and not all parents are as sappy as I am, but goodness gracious this is so awesomely rewarding.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Sometimes I still can't believe there's a little man coming to our family. Even with the swelling, waking up several times per night, exhaustion, and just plain getting huge, it sometimes feels like it's all in my head and it will never actually happen. Today though, it has felt more real. In large part because of this:

Some of my friends threw a baby shower today for my friend Karen and I. We are due about 5 weeks apart and I'd been planning a shower for her a few weeks ago, but unforeseen circumstances caused it to be delayed. I'd been so worried about making sure she got a shower that when the hosts asked if we minded that they be combined, she and I chatted and decided that would be a lot of fun.

It was.

The decorations were gorgeous, the food was fantastic, and the company even better. 

I never had a baby shower for Aeryn. My office brought in a cake one day and surprised me with a little party, and the employees at the post office even surprised me with a cake one day. Does that tell you how often I was in the post office? I didn't have many real friends at that time and the only people I really knew well were my colleagues. The idea of friends throwing me a party was truly a little overwhelming. I was glad it turned into a double shower so the attention wasn't only on me. 


I can't describe how lucky I feel. Through generous gifts, hand-me-downs, and Craigslist, I'm feeling like little man is well covered as he comes into the world. Not only are the essentials going to be covered, but some of the things I really hoped to have too. It may be the hormones, but I want to cry every time I think about how blessed I am. 

I sent Aeryn off with my phone and asked her to take pictures of some of the people at the shower. This is what I ended up with:

At least I will always remember my friends' cute kids. The rest of the guests I'll have to commit to memory. Honestly, I feel so spoiled and loved. It was amazing. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


This year I got to make Squirt's costume. After her batgirl costume a couple years ago I swore I wasn't going to do that again, but the opportunity arose and I am glad it did. We ended up with a 9 day notice that we were going to make one.  That may sound like ample time, but since I typically make her finalize her choice by October 1st it left me feeling crazy anxious.

She is on a mythology kick, thanks to reading the Goddess Girls series. So far Persephone and Aphrodite are her favorites. Last year she was in a play of Persephone and Demeter at school so that may have contributed as well. Long story short, she chose to be Aphrodite this year, in large part due to the fact that the Aphrodite costumes we saw online had pink scarves while Persephone had purple. 

We were headed to the 5th street Haunted Market on the 30th for October visiting teaching, and I snapped a couple quick photos with my phone thinking I could get better ones on Halloween once I helped her with "makeup" and we spent more time getting ready. This turns out to be the best I got, and it's a good thing I did since the costume was never fully put together again. 

The 5th Street Market has a shop that specializes in African imports. We took this picture so that Aeryn could stand next to the giraffe... since she loves giraffes. She has off and on called them her favorite animals since she could speak, but really, anything with four legs and a pulse is likely her favorite.

I was able to whip it up better than anticipated, though I learned in the process that I HATE SEWING SLEEVES and am clearly not a seamstress. I can fare well enough for crafts and decor, getting quite particular and perfectionist like, but when it comes to clothing I am a wreck. I found a dress pattern for $0.99 and used a white sheet I already had on hand for the dress, then bought 1.5 yards of pink fabric at $2/yard so as far as costumes go this was about as cheap as it comes, unless, you know, you already have everything on hand. 

For the first time since we moved here, kids were allowed to wear costumes to school on Halloween. I showed up in the morning to watch the costume parade. It ended in the gym where the kids all did the monster mash. For as much as Aeryn says she doesn't want to take a dance class, she sure loves to dance. She threw her soul into that even though most of the other kids around her wanted nothing to do with it.

I love that she's made it to fifth grade without getting embarrassed to have me around. I'm sure that is just around the corner though.

In losing her BFF from last year to another school (which I'm actually not too sad about) she has made new friends. This is the girl of the hour. It sounds like they play at recess most days. 

Kids changed out of their costumes after the school parade, and as fate would have it, she left all the sparkly adornments in her desk. At least the dress and scarf made it home! We improvised with one of my scarves tied around her waist but the glitzy part of the costume has yet to reappear.

Once again she went trick-or-treating without me. I can't decide if I like that or not. She came home with quite the stash, and I'm proud to say the only thing I've eaten was three rolls of smarties that she said she didn't want. 

I'd say it was a successful holiday. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


Fall is fabulous. I don't really know if there is anywhere else on Earth that does fall as exquisitely as the northwest since there are so many places I haven't been, but here it is just glorious. There are so many species of trees and they all seem to change at a different time so there are colors for a long, long time. It's the onset of sweater weather and three quarters of us really love sweater weather. The final quarter of us loves SoCal summers. Perhaps one day we'll convince her sweaters are amazing. 

Grandma Debbi is so good to send the kids packages for the Holidays. It always makes Aeryn's day. I'm still amazed at how lucky both our girls are to have been welcomed so completely by the other person's family. We are truly lucky that way. When Aeryn sent a "thank you" text she had to include a selfie... which is so funny to me. Kids have always taken selfies, even in the days of traditional cameras with delayed gratification, but I'm sure the reversible cameras and digital displays on most phones just make it that much more exciting.

We watched our neighbor's girls for a couple hours one day and one highlight of the afternoon was playing in the leaves.

I can't blame them, who doesn't love to play in the leaves?

Then to make it actually feel like Halloween, since somehow October has decided it is almost over (seriously, HOW???) some friends of ours orchestrated a pumpkin carving party. Aeryn takes this very seriously as you can tell.

We decided to use real knives this year instead of those cheap, bendy pumpkin carving kits and while it seemed like a good idea at the start, she was actually really scared of using the knife. She asked me to cut the eyes and nose after she drew them on, then used a scraper to put all her other designs on the surface.

For year number 5,487,827,346 (or maybe just 5) she chose to make a cat. This girl is definitely consistent.

After she had completely finished, she saw the drill one of our friends had brought to carve theirs. She is clearly her mother's child and was completely drawn to it. Smart girl... drills are pretty awesome. She tried to smooth out the eyes somewhat and then just took to making random holes in the back of the pumpkin. We'll just pretend it's for ventilation. 

With three days to go I'm not done making her costume. She was expecting her dad to send one and then late last week we found out that wasn't happening and set to work. We will see how it turns out, I am not even close to considering myself a seamstress and costumes always freak me out. Secretly though, I'm glad that I get to make it. As cute as her Frankie Stein was last year, I really missed out on helping her put it together. Here's hoping I get it pulled together and have something to report in a few days...