Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things Loved in December

1. Honeywell Space Heater

We bought this house because a. we LOVED it and b. it had a partially finished basement (HUGE in Oak Park) which in my mind equated to PLAY ROOM! Shortly after moving in last year we realized that whoever finished the basement may or may not have put insulation in the walls because the basement was FREEZING! We bought one of those little fan heaters from Home Depot thinking it would do the trick which it of course did not. This winter we were prepared to do (almost) whatever it took to make our basement "playable". Thanks to this space heater it took about $70 and free 2 day shipping from amazon. We turn it on in the morning and while it does take a solid hour to really heat up the whole space it is TOASTY once it does (so much so that I don't mind Ainsley running around in her swimsuit pretending she's "going a pool!" like she likes). Our basement now houses most of the toys the girls own so we can play hard and then walk up the stairs, close the door, and WALLA! peace and relatively tranquility. Worth every penny and then some.

2. Car Top Carrier

Again an investment that we thought would be more substantial but we found this one, also on amazon for a mere $35. With barely making it home packed to the brim from the holidays last year fresh in our minds we opted to spring for a soft top carrier to help ease the burden of creative packing this year. We were able to fit everything into our car, and carrier with some room to spare. While Ian solely did the unpacking, so my optimism and judgment may be a bit biased, we LOVE the carrier. Again, worth every cent.

3. Melissa and Doug Play Kitchen

I spent hours, literally hours "window" shopping for the perfect play kitchen for Ainsley. I knew I wanted wood, small, functional and FUN but was unwilling to pay the $250+ dollars that my favorite plan toy kitchen cost. At the nth hour I stumbled across this one and Ian concurred what I already knew in my heart. This was it. After a solid hour of two person assembly on Christmas Eve it was ready to go. We accessorized it with pots,pans, utensils, and adorable plush fruits and veggies from IKEA. After Ainsley awakened from her sugar plum dreams on Christmas morning it was love at first sight. We spent a good 1-2 hours a day with that kitchen and the best part of all? It fit in the back of our escape surrounded by bags of gifts and clothes WITHOUT being disassembled. Now that's a Christmas gift.

4. Smart Wool socks, and baby booties

I bought my first pair of Smartwools in running sock form about a year and a half ago and fell instantaneously in love. /while I am not one of those uber-sensitive-to-wool types I don't find that they itch at all and keep my toes so toasty warm. I stumbled across toddler sized Smartwools at Peapods in St Paul when Ainsley was a baby and Santa decided that both of the girls needed new sets for the cold winter in our drafty old house this Christmas. Ian's sister Sonya bought both Ian and I a pair for Christmas and so now all our feet are warm and snug and oh so cute.

5. New clothes, toys, and books

It was such a blessing to receive so many wonderful gifts for the girls and ourselves this Christmas. One of the "downfalls" of parenting is that moment when you go to dress your child and realize that they've grown out of EVERYTHING they own and you know have to drop a load of money on new clothes. I remember when Ainsley about about 3 months old and I realized that we had NO toys for her growing curiosity and was astounded by how much basic things cost at a toy store. Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends the girls will be well clothed AND entertained for months and months to come. Thank you!

6. Spending time with family and friends in Minnesota.
It wouldn't have been Christmas without the 15+ hours in the car, full cookie belly's, fun games, long talks, and full glasses of wine. Thank you everyone for such a wonderful holiday. Holidays sure have changed with our growing family and we love every minute!

The Swing of Things

I feel like I always write about the same things. How unexpectedly HARD this stay-at-home-mom-thing is, how difficult it's been living away from "home", general growing up adult/new parent woes and modest triumphs. Am I a broken record?

I have other thoughts. this what I'm supposed to be doing? What about when the girls are in school, what then? What am I really good at? Day in and day out...what is life all about?

Ian has been reading a lot of philosophy lately and trying desperately to get me on the wagon with him. I just feel like the answers to those "big questions" aren't out there for me to read, but are lying somewhere within this humdrum of daily life, slowly uncovering themselves.

As much as I agonize over my life decisions sometimes I am where I am and this is where I believe I should be. Ainsley and Louise are here because of Ian and I and because God chose them to be our children. So for me, I guess, the BIG answers are fairly simply answered.

I think I have become a bit insecure about how "simple" I've become. I used to pride myself on getting good grades, standing up at graduation when the "cum laude" graduates were honored, tackling a 25 hour work week, full class load and 20 miles of running in one average school week. My intellect, wit, and thirst for knowledge used to mean so much to me. So much has changed.

While I still enjoy reading and am rarely without an earmarked book at my bedside (or more recently a charged up kindle...thanks mom and dad!) that's about where my thirst for knowledge stops. I would much rather spend my free time looking up new recipes (and eating them!) knitting a new sweater for Louise (she doesn't fit into many of Ainsley's old ones) or tackling the never ending to do list that accompanies homeownership and parenthood. Rather than getting satisfaction from a bright insight, or a good debate over O'Neil's intentions in The IceMan Cometh (the BEST book I read in college btw) I marvel at my patience at 4:30 in the afternoon as Ainsley's losing it YET AGAIN. I feel self worth when I manage to simultaneously calm a newly teething Louise and pay attention to Ainsley's latest play dough creation with enthusiasm. I glow with pride at the success of a new recipe, marked by Ian's subtle but well intentioned "it's good." and a second helping.

Perhaps I write so much about my troubles, struggles, and insecurities because I am just that, terribly insecure. I feel like I SHOULD want more. But I don't. I just don't. I am completely (well 98.5%) happy raising my two adorable girls. Watching every milestone and hilarity as they present themselves. Cooking (mostly) good food and enjoying the company of my sweet funny husband after the girls are in bed. It is a gloriously simple life that I lead. I guess this blog is a way of making me ok with that. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Years and Four Months

Ainsley is two years old. AHHH! It just sounds so OLD!
Her birthday in MN went amazingly well. She gobbled up her fair share of the 5 boxes of mac and cheese I made. Thankfully the weather held out so that everyone could attend. She was a bit shy at first, but warmed up quickly to all the attention and fun. Everyone was so generous and I won't be needing to buy her any clothes (or toys) for quite some time. When she started slowing down on opening gifts I had her new favorite dress up monkey toy help her out which went well. Thanks everyone for such a great day!

While I am pretty much AGAINST listing off milestones, Ainsley is doing way too many crazy and adorable things not to commemorate her two years with some.

-when we said goodnight on Christmas Eve she responded with "Merry Christmas!" all on her own-
-she'll sing "Happy Dirthday" to just about anyone-
-"ok Bubye" and "See you later!" are her two choice send offs-
-"whatcha Missa Wogers, eada bar, apple jush and wata" is how we start our days"-
-"Coming YaWeez!" is her response whenever she hears Louise crying-
-"Time for nappy time!" is how she lets us know she's ready for bed (or ready for some alone-wreak-havoc-in-the-room-time)-

-frosty the snowman, twinkle twinkle, happy birthday, and edelweiss are her favorite songs to sing-
-yogurt, cereal with NILK!, mac a cheese, hot Yogs!!!, cookies, carrots, pears, bars, and oatmeal with SWEET NILK! are her favorite foods-
-we are still pacifier free but she loves her nankers and soft blankies when she sleeps-
-she has perfected jumping off the ground on two feet and galloping around the house (thanks Musikgarten!)
-she is getting progressively more snuggly and loves for "daddy hold and mommy hold"-
-is still as mischievous as ever, screams a lot for attention and runs around like a mad woman, but boy do we love our little two year old girl-

And not to be overshadowed by her older and much louder sister is our four month old Louise. I realize that I tend to overshadow her little baby accomplishments with Ainsley stories, because lets face it, there's way more of them and they're HILARIOUS!

Louise is
-smiling ALL the time, literally, whenever you make eye contact with this baby, or she locks eyes on something interesting, or just woke up, or just ate, or just ANYTHING! she smiles-
-has started belly laughing! she's been chuckling since about 2 months old but we got her first real belly laugh on camera over Christmas when she was 3 months. Probably the best thing in the world-
-has rolled over a few times but mostly loves to hang out on her back and roll halfway to one side or the other to check things out-
-is mostly content to look around at things quietly as long as she's being held upright in a standing position...seriously, she wants to stand ALL the time and gets very agitated when she's lying down for too long-
-LOVES, I mean LOVES Ainsley. Whenever she hears her voice or catches a glimpse of her whizzing by she's locked and smiling, laughing even. My hope for them to be pals seems to be coming true-
-hasn't made the jump to solid food yet but as she seems to be teething we may be starting soon...she just still seems so young to me! Funny because we started Ainsley RIGHT at 4 months old, that child BIT!-
-is the happiest baby in the world...really, we couldn't be luckier-

So there are my two girls...Two years and four months old. I wish I could just stop time because I can't imagine them getting any more cute or precious than they are right now. But then again, I've said that about every age.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday Reflections

I'm sitting here at my computer blowing through nap time by looking at old photos of Ainsley. I have been unusually tolerant of her lately, more patient, more understanding. I thought I must have been coming down with something...what is happening to me?!? Then it hit baby turns 2 years old next week. I am tearing up just writing it out.

Oh Ainsley, we've had our ups and downs. From her whirlwind birth and frantic first few weeks (did she every stop screaming?), to learning how to be a mom and simultaneously learning about my beautiful new daughter (no snuggles unless she initiates them, fiercely independent and opinionated, unfailingly sweet and kind, active as all get out) we have shared in so much joy.

These past two years have been the best of my life, and let me tell you that's saying something. Marrying the love of my life and creating two beautiful perfect little girls together...nothing compares to it. Ainsley started our little family. She made me a mom and Ian a dad. She's tested us like I never thought a child would and every day brings something new and wonderful (even if it's a mere moment in an otherwise horrendous day :o). I glow with pride when I see the amazing little girl that she's becoming and simultaneously grieve for the loss of my little baby.

Although I guess Ainsley never really was a "typical" baby. I always envied thoes parents who had baby's who would sit in one place for more than a minute and play with a toy...once Ainsley could move she was OFF! I laugh when I compare photos of her and Louise at the same age. At Louise's age Ainsley was rolling over and over and over, sitting straight up in the bumbo grabbing toys and moving around her crib and floor by scooting on her tummy. Who is this child! I'll tell you who: a child who walked at 9 months 4 days old, chats your ear off on the phone, laughs when you pop a balloon or scare the daylights out of her, screams in delight when she's tickled mercilessly, and LOVES roughhousing, dancing, and spinning, playing with play dough, reading, singing, and being with the people she loves.

I am so thankful to get to spend her 2nd birthday with the people we love the most, family and good friends. I hope I can keep it together on the big day! This is way more emotional than I thought it would be!

Happy birthday my sweet Ainsley. The world is a better place because you're in it!

SOOOO Excited!

Laundry is done, bags are packed, cookies are baked and in their tins for transport, presents are wrapped...we are ready! We leave tomorrow afternoon for Minnesota for 10 days of birthday and Christmas fun.

I have always felt like a kid again this time of year, but even moreso now that I have children of my own. Ainsley "gets" about 80% of what's going on and definitely knows that some important and special days are coming up.

I can't wait to see her in her cute little party dress and red shoes on her birthday, ripping open presents and smiling away. We NEVER buy her gifts "just because" so it's extra special to have a day just to spoil her :o). She is already very excited for her cake and hot dogs and Ian is equally excited for the honey baked ham. I hope the weather doesn't keep anyone away this year!

And then there's Christmas. Waking up with anticipation, running down the stairs to see what santa brought and spying your bursting stocking hanging above a crackling fire. While last year was fun with Ainsley this year is going to be amazing. I can hardly wait!

I'm glad to have a lot on my plate to keep me busy in the next 24 hours. I plan to make one more batch of cookies and clean this house from top to bottom so that I came come home to an organized space. Now if only this cold would shake itself I'd be set!

Merry Christmas everyone! See you in the New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Week for the Books, baby book that is...

For those of you catching my latest status updates you know it's been an eventful week at the Vaagenes house. What started as a relaxing recuperation from 2.5 weeks away ended with multiple instances of toddler defiance and utter hilarity.

Ainsley is at such a great age (Ian and I say this about every stage so far). She is so communicative, funny, sweet, and defiant (yes sometimes even the defiance is a positive, it shows her strong will and spirit).

While sucking the bean all the way up her nose right after I explicitly said "No! Beans don't go in our noses!" was assuredly an act of defiance some of her other antics came from a different place. Pooping in the bucket while she was supposed to be napping was actually a rather clever solution to her dilemma "I'm naked and have to poop, now what?" Had she not taken her clothes off in the first place that would have been a moot point. But that's neither here nor there. Breaking the Christmas ornament was really more of an experiment than disobedience (I mean come on, her dad is a scientist after all!). She looked so curious as she dropped the glass bulb to the floor. "Mom said it would break, I have to see this for myself." honestly I'm surprised it's only happened once so far. As for the big gulp of beer she snuck? who can blame her, it's the holidays!

While I have enjoyed the responses from people about Ainsley's recent antics I find myself getting a big defensive at the same time. Granted this has been an extreme week of hilarious events but this doesn't make Ainsley "naughty" or "bad" in any way. In fact just about anyone who's had a toddler, past or present, has assured me that this is par for the course. Especially having a second, albeit calmer, daughter I find the two are being compared often and I find myself on the defensive for Ainsley a lot. While she has always kept us on our toes there have been so many perks to her spunk. I wouldn't change my daughter for the world. And think of all the fun we'll have when she's older laughing about her toddler antics!

In other children related news, Louise rolled over from her tummy to her back for the first time yesterday. I find it amusing that she despises tummy time and slept for the first two months of her life but now that she's truly awake to the world she is such a strong alert little lady. She loves sitting up like a big girl in her bumbo and could stare and laugh at Ainsley ALL day. They are really starting to interact more which has been so much fun to see. Ainsley loves talking to Louise, telling her stories and singing her songs. Louise responds so happily to the attention and love. I'm so excited to watch them continue to grow up together!

Oh! One more big Ainsley note, we're all done with the pacifier! Anyone who knows Ainsley knew how much she LOVED her pacifier. It became a security item around 18 months old and both Ian and I were growing a bit terrified of how it was going to go when we took it away when she turned 2. To my surprise and delight she pulled it out of her mouth Tuesday morning, looked at it and said "fff-fire broken mama" and sure enough there were a few distinct holes in her pacifier that she must have made while I wasn't looking. I said "oh now ff-fire's broken. We'd better go throw him in the garbage!" (yes both her pacifier and blankie are male, had to even things out somehow in our house!) She proudly walked over to the kitchen garbage, threw it in, slammed the lid shut and we sang "Bye bye ff-fire!" Short of waking up really early from her afternoon naps (possibly unrelated) it's gone amazingly well. I am SO thankful that it's over with!

Even with all her vim and vigor Ainsley continues to impress and surprise me (she's so her daddy's girl in that way). She's handled all of her big life changes so well so far (getting off the bottle, moving to her big girl bed, no more pacifier). I am so excited to celebrate her two wonderful years of life in two short weeks. We've been practicing singing "happy birthday" and she's already informed me that we'll be having hot dog cake as her treat...I'm thinking I'll cook the hot dogs separately, don't tell her!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things Loved in November

1. Mr. Rogers Paraphernalia
I don't know if anyone else is as obsessed with Mr Rogers as Ian and I are, but the package we got in the mail from Family Communication (thank to my Aunt Gail) was Christmas come early. We watch a show ever morning with Ainsley, Daniel "Meow Meow" and Henrietta are Ainsley's two new best friends and Fred's CDs got me through a 7 hour car trip alone with Ainsley and Louise. I know the DVDs are expensive and you can't find episodes on You Tube but if you have the opportunity to bring a little Mr Rogers into your life I highly recommend it!

P.S. What there ever a better song written than "It's You I Like" Didn't think so!

2. This Cookie Cookbook

Every recipe that I've tried in this book is AMAZING. I can't say enough good things about the recipe, pictures and historical information (yes, apparently cookies have a recipe). I'm excited to try out a few new ones this season in hopes of finding a new holiday must have!

3. B is for Bethlem
This is hands down my new favorite Christmas book. For starters is features one of my favorite illustrators. Besides the amazing pictures are the rhyming (but not in a dumb corny way) informative verses. I've been searching for a religious Christmas book that would be accessible to Ainsley and found it!

4. "Play in Sink!"
So this is both a thing Loved and Loathed all in one. We've spent a lot of time indoors this past week due to both weather and Ainsley's bug and let me tell you "play in sink" is the BEST toddler activity EVER! It is the one thing she could do all day long happily and other than the minor spills occasionally it is relatively clean. I loathe as well because WHENEVER I'm in the kitchen Ainsley shouts "Play in sink! Play in sink!" OVER AND OVER AND OVER! Ah, I guess it's a cross I'll have to bare.

5. Christmas shopping in MN.
As shopping with the two girls in tow is virtually impossible (correction, BROWSING is impossible, shopping is just really really difficult) I was blessed with some alone time in MN to get some much needed Christmas browsing, and shopping completed. My mom and I ventured to Peapods in St Paul (the best baby store in the twin cities if you ask me). I scored some adorable Smartwool booties and socks for the girls stockings as well as some Kathe Kruse toys for Louise and egg shakers for Ainsley. I also visited the General Store in Minnetonka, an old favorite of mine. I got Louise's first Christmas ornament, a bunch of stocking stuffers and a big wind up tape measurer for Ainsley. I also got to shop for some new pants for me that actually fit, SO exciting, as well as join my younger sister for bridesmaid and wedding dress shopping (all successful). I forgot how fun getting out can be SANS babies ( I love you girls, you just make a lot of things difficult). I can't wait to see their (ok mostly Ainsley's) faces on Christmas morning!