Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Oh the bliss of two weeks away from the real world. Two weeks of extra hands to help, shoulders to cry on, ears to listen, hugs to be had, and smiles to pair with laughter. I could never get enough.

After 5 straight days of Ainsley being under the weather and yet another 7 hour car ride through three states we made it home safe and sound.

Our house smelled like home, Ainsley's big girl bed was just as exciting, and the house was relatively clean (thanks Ian!). Then I spied it, the HUGE pile of mail (i.e. BILLS) on the front table.

I remember coming home from long trips as a child. We'd run around the house making sure everything was in its place, jumping on our beds, unloading our travel bags, and rummaging through what was left of the pantry. We'd pick up where we'd left off, carefree and easy going. When did that stop?

Monday was near horrendous. Almost overfilling the cart at Trader Joe's to restock the empty fridge and pantry set the mood for an adult-duty-filled day. I spent Ainsley's naptime calling health insurance and the hospital to straighten out even MORE debacles with Louise's hospital stay. (Really, could there BE a more inefficient system?) To top it off poor Ainsley has yet to completely lick this virus she got and was not a happy camper.

The day wasn't a total wash. Seeing as I've been itching to decorate our house for Christmas since I swallowed my last bite of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving I made a point to pull out what child-friendly decorations I could and enlist Ainsley's help in achieving the wonder that is Christmas in our little home. She marveled as I plugged in the row of small village houses I placed on our buffet, peering into the windows to see who was home. She snuggled the wooden "Baby Hesus" as I explained the nativity to her while we set it up on the front table. I then pulled out her fisher price version that Grammy gave her for Christmas last year and she danced around to "Away in the Manger" while all the stable animals gave the Christ child kisses.

There is something magical about this time of year, and no, it's not just the online shopping and great deals. If a simple nativity scene and Christmas village set up can turn around an otherwise lost-cause-of-a-day, then anything is possible.

After Ainsley's nap today I plan on setting up our TJs+ gingerbread house. We'll see how much of the candy actually gets glued down!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Week One...

of our 2.5 weeks in Minnesota is over. We've had such a blast.

Ainsley and Connor are now officially "bffs". She says "See Connor. Play Connor" ALL the time. There is nothing cuter than watching two rambunctious toddlers make mischief together. It's the first time they've really interacted with each other rather than just the parallel play. A taste of things to come!

The girls have both done really well adjusting to different sleeping arrangements, noise and excitement levels, and a new environment. Ainsley is sleeping in the biggest big girl bed of her life (a king!) and has only escaped her room twice. Every time I tuck her in for nap or bed I just want to snuggle down with her forever. She is so precious and snuggly and CALM at these times. I love it.

Louise now goes down right after Ainsley giving me a solid 2 hours of baby-free time before I go to bed. This has been such a blessing. I've been able to catch up with my parents, watch a few good shows, take baths and delve into a novel (a NOVEL! not just a magazine!). It's been amazing.

Louise is sleeping in my room with me and when she wakes up around 3 or 4 to eat I just bring her into bed with me, let her latch and we snooze away until Ainsley gets me up around 6. At home I put Louise back in her crib and it's been fun to get some extra snuggle time with her in bed. She is growing so fast!

On that note Louise is now officially exiting the "4th trimester" and really showing us her colors. She is very vocal and loves to coo, laugh, giggle, and smile. She responds positively to so many sounds and stimuli, finally getting really into rattles, krinkle paper, and things hanging above her head. She still opposes tummy time vehemently but loves sitting up like a big girl on laps and is ALMOST ready for the bumbo on her own. When on her back she'll roll to one side but hasn't attempted getting all the way over yet. She seems very content to be on her back most of the time, just squirming around and taking everything in. I love that baby.

It's been hard being away from Ian for a week. Before we left I made the mistake of saying to him "this is the first time that we're going away and I already miss you"...sounded WAY worse than I meant it to. It's just that before I was always SO excited to see family, be around people I love, have help with Ainsley, that I hardly thought about being away from home, and Ian. But now we're this little growing family. It's amazing how much more I feel like a familial unit with Louise now in the picture. We have a routine. The girls LOVE their dad and it's clear Ainsley really misses him. I do to.

I'm looking forward to this next week to see old friends, get some much needed Christmas shopping done, and just relax and enjoy my favorite place, our Minnesota home!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things Loved in October

1. Infantino wrap and tie baby carrier -
Initially we bought this to use as a backpack carrier for Ainsley. I like it. Ian doesn't because he feels awkward with the ties across his chest and hips. I LOVE it as a front carrier for Louise. Once I got the hang of it it's SO easy to use and my "little" 13 pound 2 month old feels light as a feather once she's in it.

2. Extendable Toddler bed from IKEA
They have a few versions of this bed available but we bought the Leksvik and it couldn't be cuter. On the smallest setting it's the perfect size for our peanut 22 month old and looks like a little alpine bed. I love it!

3. PEARS!!!
In season, AMAZING, yummy. Ainsley double fists sections as she greedily crams them into her mouth. I would do the same if I were almost 2 years old.

4. Real Simple
This magazine is the only reading material that I've been able to get through since Louise was born. I'm being ambitious and taking A Tale of Two Cities with me to Minnesota. We'll see what happens!

5. Downtown by Petula Clark Pandora Station
Ainsley is OBSESSED with this song and this station satiates her craving for catchy 70s pop music. I actually don't mind 90% of it and it sure is fun to dance around the house to.

Kind of a lame list I know, but my mind is preoccupied. I leave with the girls for MN in two days and I have a lot left to get done tomorrow in preparation. So excited!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Lighter, Lovelier Note

I continue to be overwhelmed by the responses from people when I write something that hits close to home. I can't tell you what it means to have support and know that I'm not alone, even when that's all that I feel that I am. Thank you!

Ian had to stay late at work today for a poster session at school meaning my typical 9.5 hour day was stretched to a full 12 hours. I am amazed at how well it went.

As I sit here sipping my well deserved half glass of red wine I realize that most of the success of the day was me. No, I'm not boasting or "tooting my own horn". It's amazing how much my attitude affects the outcome of a day with the girls.

Knowing that I had a longer stretch than usual put my mind in a different setting this morning. I didn't have a full agenda, a to do list a mile long to get done. I kept my pace, slow and steady, dragging out each activity and savoring the moments to make the day full and good.

After breakfast and a second cup of coffee I took the time to figure out how to put Louise in the soft back pack carrier, that doubles as a front carrier, that we bought for Ainsley. Ainsley was amused by the photographic directions and my struggles and in the end Louise was as snug as a bug for our stroll to the park. We spent nearly an hour just walking around. We plodded up to the train tracks and watched the commuters race below our feet. Ainsley ran up and down up and down the ramp to the pool house and tempted fate dangling her legs over the edge of the high rainbow ladder at the park. She collected "berries" (fallen crab apples) and leaves. She even (mostly) willingly toddled back to our house when the time came, red cheeked and fulfilled.

We then played in the basement, undoing and redoing bins of clothes that may or may not fit Louise this winter (9 month size!). Ainsley lovingly played with her dolls and we watched the first half hour of the disney version of Peter Pan. She LOVES the pirates (of course).

After a shared lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup (one dunked bite for mom, one for Ainsley) she snuggled down in her bed for an easy nap. I took the time to feed and snuggle Louise on my chest while knitting the last piece of Ainsley's wool winter coat.

Post nap we spent the afternoon indoors, the rain foiling my plan to go out and pick up a few groceries. Ainsley practiced her coloring skills on thanksgiving coloring pages we printed out and helped me circle items in catalogs that she thought Ian would like (if it were up to her he would have a very generous Christmas). I learned that her new favorite color is purple and that she can point out the first letter of some of her favorite words in an alphabet line up (M for monkey and Mama, D for Dada, Z for zig zag - starfall.com people, I'm telling you!) She dictated what characters she would like me to draw for the felt board I'm making for our car trip (Mama, Dada, Ainsley!...I had to remind her of Weez). She helped me clean the upstairs with a duster while Louise laughed and cooed at the vacuum cleaner in her rocker. After dinner and a bath we snuggled down to read books until Ian came home, just in time to finish the last few pages of goodnight moon.

I wanted to make sure to write tonight after such a good day (even with two time outs!) to remind myself that sometimes a day is what you make it, what you set out for it to be. Today was just what we all needed and as I kissed my two sweet girls goodnight tonight I feel like the luckiest lady. I would have it no other way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Toddler Travels and Woes

Now that we are OFFICIALLY heading to Minnesota for Thanksgiving (and the 2 weeks before) I am gearing up for my first solo 7 hour road trip with the girls. I've done it enough alone with Ainsley that I'm not terribly concerned. I am confident that Louise will sleep most of the way and as bad as it may get with Ainsley it's just one day, it's just one day, it's just one day (my mantra, can you tell?)

I have actually been having fun making lists and lists and lists of things to bring and do in the car. Songs, fingerplays, activities, special snacks. I almost caved and bought a DVD player, but as Ian pointed out, we both grew up sans electronics in the car and are determined to make Ainsley a "self entertained" girl. Easy for him to say, he's not the one travelling alone with a 22 month old and a 2 month old! (I say with all the love in the world)

I am currently agonizing over which new toy to buy her. Ainsley got $10 from her great grandma (GG) for Halloween and we thought we'd use it to buy her something fun for the car trip. Travel puzzles? a bead lacing game? a new book? It's a tough one.

I am actually finding myself looking forward to the trip, well, mainly for the destination but I always feel a little empowered when I make that drive on my own. It reminds me of how far I've come from the days of being relatively housebound with ainsley during the first few months of her life. We'll see if I feel the same about the return trip!

On the "toddler woes" front we've had a trying morning (who am I kidding, a trying few days) in the Vaagenes household. I stumbled out of bed at 7:30 with Louise (she's been getting up twice a night again for a while and it's starting to wear on me a bit) to find Ian and Ainsley happily doing a puzzle. As soon as Ian left to get ready for work Ainsley switched gears into this moody little being.

While she's always been a "water tester" she is definitely upping her game. I feel like EVERYTHING is a battle these days. What food she eats, what's in her sippy cup, what activity we do, what music we listen to.

Even old standbys aren't doing the trick anymore. The past two weeks at musikgarten have not gone so well and I'm debating signing up for the next session. Today she swiped at a little girl when she didn't put her puppy dog away fast enough. I was mortified and almost broke down right there. I used to judge parents with out of control toddlers and now I am one of those parents. I feel at such a loss sometimes. I of course had her apologize and explained in my "stern mom voice" that we NEVER hit people. But she smirks at me and runs away.

Sometimes I feel like it's me. I MUST be doing something wrong. Why are there children that just sit quietly on their parents laps, follow directions and use "indoor voices"? Most of the time I love Ainsley's spunk and am thankful for her willingness to try new things and be independent. I have been told numerous times how lucky I am that my child is not a wallflower and will benefit in the long run from her vigor. But what about right now? It's exhausting saying "No!" and redirecting and explaining "why we don't do this, and why we don't do that" I feel like most of my time with her is spent this way now as opposed to just playing and having fun.

I just fear that in those moments of breakdown and defiance she is losing that sweet little girl that I know she can be, and that slowly she is breaking me down as well. But this is my job right? It's what I signed up for. The exercise has been helping to energize me and level out my head. I just need to focus on the good and the knowledge that this too shall pass, right, please?