Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Travel Bug

Lately I have been thinking and reminiscing, a lot. Perhaps it's the newfound free time I have while both Ainsley and Louise snooze away the afternoon, or the long dreary winter days. Whatever the reason I've been thinking.

I've been lucky that thus far in my 26 (almost 27-eek!) years I've been able to experience a lot. When we were young my parents made it a priority to go somewhere each spring break to see the country and the world and enjoy each others company. Hiking trails in Arizona, lounging on the beaches of San Diego, experiencing the wonder of Club Meds in Ixtapa Mexico and Eluthera, Bahamas were a few of our trips. In college I was able to spend two January terms abroad, one on a religion trip in Rome, Florence, and Germany and the other an english trip to Ireland. In my first married year I visited my sister who had just moved to Boston and took a solo trip to France to visit one of my best friends, John, I had a blast.

::sausages from a street vendor in Germany, in the rain (junior year)::

::dinner with my grandpa on our week long trip to Williamsburg, VA (8th grade)::

Now that time of my life is over, for a while at least. I am settled. The prospect of going ANYWHERE on my own, with Ian, or as a whole family is 10 times as difficult, not to mention expensive. While I am saddened that it will be years and years before I get to jump the pond again or experience a new place with that carefree vigor of youth I am thankful for the experiences that I have had and where my life is now.

::getting ready to fly the trapeze in the Bahamas (maybe 8 years old-ish?)::

::lounging beachside on Grand Cayman with my sisters (Freshman year)::

I think that travelling is one of the most important things that a person can do to grow and learn about themselves. I remember going to the airport as a junior in high school, meeting up with a group of about 15 classmates and boarding the plane for Germany for 2 weeks. Staying with a host family that spoke NO english and traveling around a country that I new very little about taught me a thing or two about myself, what I can handle, who I am. That trip opened so many doors for me. It taught me that I am resilient (no clean clothes for 2 weeks!) and capable (being led around blindly as my host sister didn't speak english at ALL). I fell in love with one of my best friends on that trip (yes you Lisa!) and had so much fun trying new foods, meeting new people, and exploring a new country and culture.

::Lisa's and my budding love, for coffee and each other (junior year of high school)::

::kayaking at upward bound::

I realize though, after some thought, that while my kind of travelling may change, personal growth through new experiences is still very much a part of my life. While I may not be travelling to foreign destinations and learing new languages, going to the library with two little ones and managing a hectic story time seems enough of an adventure most days. I am learning the language of toddlerdom, a tricky one I tell you. I am seeing old beloved places in a new light, through the eyes of my daughters: Sanibel Island, Montana, grandparents houses, cabins. I am rekindling my love for my old favorites and savoring each precious moment in whatever place I happen to be with my family.

::with John in France, I felt pretty cool in those sunglasses::

::I do NOT in fact know how to play the accordion, beer convinced me otherwise (Donegal, Ireland junior year of college)::

::hiking in Tuscon, AZ (7th grade - sorry Julie!:o)::

I am so thankful for my experiences thus far and hope to give our children the same opportunities that Ian and I have been given. For now, we'll explore our neighborhood, Chicago, and anywhere that we can drive to and back from in a day. We'll take advantage of the generosity of our parents and friends to show our girls our favorite places, and someday we'll find some new favorites all our own.

P.S. I am particularly DYING to go on a Backroads bike trip with Ian. 5 year anniversary anyone?

Louisey Bean Is 5 Months Old

That's her nickname. Well, at least my nickname for her. Ya-Weez is still Ainsley's favorite, as in, "I'm comin' YaWeez!" or "YaWeez be cryin'!" or my personal favorite "silly YaWeez!"

Louise Adele is 5 months old. Ahhhh!!! I can't believe it. It feels like she's been here forever and like she should be about 2 months old simultaneously. She is still a relatively easy baby. She goes to bed at 7 and is up at 5 when I bring her in to our bed to nurse and fall back asleep until about 7. She stirs once or twice at night but is good at getting herself back to sleep relatively quickly. She still loves to be held, snuggled, and played with. She still smiles ALL the time and laughs just as much. She is really such a happy pleasant baby.

Her 5 month birthday was marked with her first cold and fever. When Ainsley gets sick Ian and I secretly enjoy the extra snuggle time and affection (as she hardly ever wants to snuggle when she's feeling good) but with Louise it was just the saddest most pathetic thing in the world to see her sick. She'd pout and wine/cry/whimper ALL day and for the first time in her life just screamed and screamed for nearly a solid hour without any hope of being consoled. It was rough. But now we're on the other side and our smiley girl is back. Thank goodness.

I've had fun starting to go through clothes for our trip to Florida in a couple of months. I keep having to switch out sizes for Louise because she's growing so fast. She's starting to grow out of some of the 3-6 month sizes and can comfortably wear most of the 6-9 month clothes. I'm taking bets on when she outweighs Ainsley...I'm thinking fall? :o)

Louise and Ainsley are becoming more and more of a unit. When Louise was inconsolable with her cold/fever Ainsley was the only one who could calm her down. She'd talk to her and give her kisses and hugs and Louise would stop crying, if only for a minute to look at her big sister and smile.

Louise is getting so close to being able to sit up on her own. She can do it for a few seconds at a time and you can see the look of astonishment on both her and Ainsley's faces. It's going to be great when then can sit up and play together.

We've tried out some food on Louise. She must be the second child because I don'd even have any pictures of her first bites. She's tried bananas and pears and loves them both. She's still young though so we just do one ice cube worth at dinner time and we'll work from there once she's six months old. She already eats more baby food in one sitting than Ainsley ever did. Perhaps my homemade baby food will finally be worth the effort!

As Louise is getting older I am already lamenting the loss of my little baby. While I am excited for each new milestone and development I know that it means the loss of that little sweet bean who just needs her mom, milk, and love. It sure is fun watching her grow though. We love you YaWeez!

::post nap sister snuggles::

::they sat this way watching Sid the Science Kid for a good 10 minutes::

::then Ainsley got up for a snack and I got some snuggle time too::

::words can't describe it...I love that dumpling::

::enjoying a family walk on a mild winter afternoon::

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Big Girl

I have been hesitant to write about Ainsley's potting training adventures much, for the slight superstition alive in me fears it will ruin a good thing. It's been going well for long enough though and I'm ready to talk.

I will start by saying that through this whole process, thus far, I have realized one thing. We are really really lucky. Potty training is the most two way street I've come across. 1. Your toddler needs to be ready and 2. YOU need to ready. From what I've heard these two phenomena rarely occur together so early.

THANKFULLY Ainsley has been interested in the toilet for quite some time. She was never afraid of it or weary to try. Perhaps my going to the bathroom in front of her ALL THE TIME helped some, but in general she's very curious and very interested in being a big girl.

We bought both a potty chair and a seat that goes on the toilet to have the options and so that each bathroom was covered. So far she has no preference. We did this when she was about 18 months old and first showed interest in trying to go in the toilet.

Neither Ian or I have ever pushed the issue. If anything I guess I discouraged it sometimes. 18 months seemed WAY too early to have any real success and honestly I just wasn't up for asking her every 1/2 hour if she needed to go (back to that whole parents being ready thing). Sometimes when she'd ask to try it I was in the middle of changing a diaper, or putting in a load of laundry, unwilling to drop what I was doing. Looking back I wonder if this added to her desire to go (reverse psychology anyone?)

Since we've been back from the holidays she's been regularly requesting to use the potty, at least 3-4 times a day without any prompting. For her birthday she got two sets of big girl underpants (and Ian went out with her to buy a third set a few weeks ago - is there anything sweeter than a dad buying his girl little tiny underpants?) and was excited to try them out one morning a couple of weeks ago when we were snowed in. After two accidents I caved and we went back to diapers for a bit (again, I wasn't ready).

Last week Ian took charge. We both (ok Ian convinced me) recognized that it was now, or maybe not again for a while (I've heard their desire waxes and wanes). We decided to go all for it. Only underpants during the day, even when we're out in the car. (no accidents while we've been out yet!) Diapers while she sleeps until she starts having dry ones (we're almost there! Every morning we wake up to "open the door, Ainsley go potties!")
She averages one to two accidents a day, usually while we're playing in the basement or otherwise engaged. Neither Ian or I, or Ainsley for that matter, get discouraged by it. She's going cold turkey for gosh sakes! I'd much rather do an extra load of laundry a week and instill confidence in her that she can do it and that we believe in her. In fact, she gets a little upset sometimes when we put a diaper on for sleeping. (We don't have enough sheets yet to try it at night!)

We never yell or get upset with her when she has an accident. At first she got an M&M every time she went, but that incentive now seems less and less important.

It's been a full week now and she's doing great. I can't believe how big she's getting. We've had to switch out a bunch of her pants because now our little peanut girl is even tinier in the bum.

I will end by reiterating that we've been really lucky so far. I don't claim to know anything special or have any real words of wisdom. I just know enough moms out there with little ones who will someday be going through the same thing and thought I'd share what seems to have worked for us. That's part of what this whole blog thing is about right?

We're so proud of her and this next big step for our girl.

Big Comfy Chair

We have a big comfy chair in the corner of our living room. It's nestled between a built in book shelf stocked with photos of our daughters, precious knickknacks, beloved craft and knitting books and all of our photo albums, and a side table concealing a small pile of toys. It's soft and deep. Sits two adults (and two babies) quite comfortably. It's one of those non-descript neutral colors. Grey? Beige? Greeny-brown?
::The Chair, in all it's glory::

It was the first piece of "adult" furniture that Ian and I bought together. It seemed like such a stretch at the time (still kind of does). Up until then our small first apartment had been furnished with generous hand me downs, leftovers from college, and IKEA purchases. It was a floor sample, and on sale to boot, making it JUST within our meager budget. Since then I've boasted about how AMAZING floor sample purchases are (usually MUCH less expensive than a brand new model and already broken in!).

At first this chair was purchased to occupy a vacant corner in our dining room. I'd always wanted a reading nook and a chair and a half seemed (in that newly-wed-smitten-with-each-other-lets-always-be-snuggling-world) to be the perfect solution. Ian and I used
to drink our morning cups of coffee in it, reading the morning news side by side before getting ready for work. At night we'd find ourselves with a glass of wine in hand, talking about our days, dreaming about the future, or just enjoying being snuggled up close on a quiet night.
::Unfortunately the ONLY photo I have of The Chair in our first apartment. Please overlook the packing peanuts stuck on my head (post-birthday-present-opening-silliness) for the awesome orange walls and vintage lamp::

When we moved to our second apartment and Ainsley was born it became our baby snuggle chair. We could both fit while ogling our beautiful girl, making goofy faces and admiring her big brown eyes and contagious laugh. As she grew we'd read books in the chair before bed and naps, curl up on it to watch an old movie or doze while calm music played in the background.

::the infamous barf on the head took place in The Chair::

::sweet baby Ainsley in The Chair::

::reading her favorite book over and over in the The Chair::

In our new house the chair now sometimes fits all 4 of us (although it is becoming a rather tight squeeze). I find it's the chair I gravitate towards when nursing Louise, or settling down to read with my girls. I've often found Ainsley snuggled in its corner, or trying to scale the back cushion to mess with the electronics on the mantel above. The chair's angle hides a pile of miscellaneous baby things (johnny jump up, collapsible tent/house, books and toys). It's really quite multi-purpose.

::post nursing adoration in The Chair::

::Grammy snuggles in The Chair::

::Halloween photo op in The Chair::

::probably the best sister picture to date in The Chair::

::Newborn bonding/classical music time in The Chair::

::Auntie Joojie toenail salon in The Chair::

Today both Louise and Ainsley have been under the weather. Luckily their fevers have both broken, but they're still extra snuggly and tired. While I rocked a sad Louise this morning I watched Ainsley grab her blankies and stuffed animals and climb up onto the chair. She carefully placed nankers on the pillow under her head and snuggled down to "nap on couch".

It's amazing. When we bought that chair the salesperson told us "do you have kids? It's great for kids". At the time I didn't think much of it. "Sure, one day our kids will sit in it I guess" was my deepest thought. It's just a chair, right? It was then maybe, but not any more. Now it's a time capsule of the three and a half years of marriage, two babies, and three homes later.

As I saw Ainsley happily snuggling down in the chair that we bought before she was even a thought in our minds I was struck by how much life has changed in three years and how wonderfully full it is. How that stretch of a purchase has fueled so much fun and comfort and made many memories.

This chair has become a symbol of our lives and parenthood. Its stains record the daily grind and it's wide open seat and plush back signify the love and safety we provide. It reminds me of how we provide for our children. How we sacrifice to give them what they need, what they deserve. I'm glad that the chair has become a place of comfort for us all and can't wait to see the damage that we do to it, and love that we share in it over the years.

Perhaps it is just a chair but it made me think of so much more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Slump

I knew it was coming. The past couple of weeks have been too goo to not have a let down.

Don't get me wrong, life it still pretty good. Ainsley and I have been enjoying the snow during Louise's morning naps, alternating between the playroom in the basement and upstairs for some variety in our day and even rearranged her room to finally get rid of the rocking chair and make the space a bit more "playable".

I just feel wiped.

The gloom of the past couple of days paired with my exhaustion from a very productive last week have caught up to me. PLUS Louise is now in that AMAZING baby stage where she takes two good LONG naps a day and I'm really weary to mess with that meaning we're housebound from 8:30-11am and pretty much ALL DAY!

I am actually going a bit stir crazy. Our little afternoon walks help a lot but right now the sidewalks are pure ice and the windchill is plumetting the temp to almost zero. Not worth it I guess. And there is only so much to do in the house that's "fun". Of course there is endless cleaning and organizing to be done but that's no fun and I'm realizing I can only handle so much playing with Ainsley ( I know this sounds bad). Yesterday before bed I played pretend with her in her dollhouse and thought I was going to lose it after about 15 minutes. My brain just doesn't work that way any more. Thank goodness for siblings!

I feel like my temper has been shorter as well. This morning after Louise's nap we went out to do a few errands and Ainsley had her first all out tantrum. After letting her hold the basket and walk around like a big girl she was desperate for a snickers bar on our way out. I of course said no and calmly put it back. A well intentioned patron saw that Ainsley needed distracting while I tried to check out and started talking to her and showing her little tricks with her hands. It really just flustered me more because then I had to worry about a stranger occupying my two year old while I tried to balance Louise in the front pack and check out. Ainsley lost it and after desperately swiping my credit card and grabbing my bags I hoisted her up on my side kicking and screaming the whole way to the car. I really have never been so close to losing it in my life. I opted to just not talk to her, get her in her carseat and drive until she calmed herself down. It only took a couple of blocks, thank goodness. When we got home we talked about it, how we don't always get what we want, how candy is only for special occasions, when mommy says no it means no and we stop asking again and again. She had tears in her eyes as she retorted "Ainsley love candy!" It's hard to stay mad at her for long.

I've realized lately how important it is for me to stop and take a moment before reacting to a situation with Ainsley. This morning alone there were at least 5 times that I had to "stop and count to 10". I always smirked at this sentiment before but now it's an essential survival tool of mine. My temper has never truly been tested before having children, probably because you can't reason with a baby or a toddler. They don't understand logic and reason. Their emotions are so raw and at the surface, with no thought behind it. I have nothing but thoughts, excuses and reasons. It's infuriating to say the least to have the same issues, the same conversations OVER AND OVER. But she's my daughter and I love her.

I'm just real thankful for naptime today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Generic title I know, but it's 9:15 and I should probably be sleeping instead of writing this so bare with me.

I've written a lot in the past about my body, pregnant body, pre baby body, post baby body, wanting BACK my body. I kind of hate that I've obsessed so much about it, but tonight I had a good epiphany and thought I should share to even the score, as it were.

Right now I am pretty happy with my body for the first time since about last February. I feel strong (thanks Jillian Michaels and Louise, that 15 pound weight I have with me ALL DAY LONG) and relatively back to normal. I have never been one to be overly narcissistic (maybe to a fault?).

There are days when I don't even glance in a mirror. My eyebrows are horrifically unkempt, my hair is ALWAYS a hot mess and I'm lucky if I have two matching socks on when I leave the house.

Truthfully, I could care less. It's been weeks since I've touched a mascara wand to my lashes and I'm totally ok with that. (thankfully Ian is too). I grew up with a very "au naturale" mom and am so thankful for that in retrospect. (I mean this in the best way possible mom :o) Appearance was never really very important to me, or my sisters (I think) growing up. We'd spend a few extra minutes getting ready for important events like high school dances or a nice dinner out but for the most part we were (and are) all way more comfortable in favorite jeans and a comfy sweatshirt. I guess this mentality has especially served me well as a mother of two.

I don't understand those new moms out grocery shopping with freshly laundered hair, a perfectly appointed outfit and flawless makeup. HOW? But more importantly...WHY?!?! When I see a mom like that I think two things 1. I'm a little jealous/thanks for making me look bad and 2. What are you giving up to find the time to look like that? Seriously. I could get dressed in the morning before Ian goes to work and have more than the 10 seconds Ainsley allows me to put together an acceptable ensemble, but then I would miss out on those precious morning minutes with a steaming cup of coffee in my hands and my family surrounding me. I'll take the mismatched outfit thank you very much (plus the longer I get to lounge in pjs the better!) And as for makeup...forget about it! I did stumble across some gloss in my bag the other day while out with Ainsley and she grabbed it and tried to eat it. Enough said.

The real point of this post is not to justify my relative slovenliness but to emphasize my acceptance of the reality of my situation. I am a mother of two. While I commend those women who make time to workout religiously, bathe daily and look presentable in public, I'm just not one of them. I'd rather spend naptimes knitting and relaxing after my breif, but very effective 20 minute workout tape courtesy of the 30 day shred. I'd rather spend those extra morning minutes with my family and bathe at night when the girls are asleep, sacrificing any hope of a "good hair day" all day, every day. I'd rather let that expensive makeup that Mac rep talked me into a year ago expire in my makeup case than risk Ainsley ingesting an unhealthy dose (because we all know how "make up time with mommy" would end with that wild card).

For now I find comfort in the simplicity of my wardrobe. Old pants fitting comfortably again and good riddance to the muffin top. I accept the parts of my body that are changed for good and even find myself smiling when I notice the thin dark line that remains vertically from my navel on my stomach, marking my body as one that has created, sustained and birthed two beautiful healthy girls. I'm ok with my slightly wider hips and extra "padding" on my stomach. As long as I'm healthy and happy and have every spare minute with the ones that have made me this way, I feel as pretty as I'll ever need to.

That's not to say I'm not DYING for a good haircut :o) Hey, we all have our vices.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm On a Roll!

Clearly, 3 posts in 3 days? Crazy. But that's how I live. Ask my mom (or Ian I guess). I'm on or off. I guess I've been very "ON" this week.

I was recently introduced to a great blog by my mother in law ( and her post today gave me a thought. She has two daughters, 3 and 1 and mentioned how they now have their own "thing". Their own relationship that is all their own, better even without her intervention. It struck me. I have two girls less than two years apart and someday, soon I know, they too will have their own "thing". I will become "the mother" not the friend and playmate that I am right now. I find myself dreading that day.

I already see Louise and Ainsley's relationship developing (spare me the chuckles I KNOW Louise is only 4 months old and just recently capable of genuine eye contact and adoration). The way that Louise looks at Ainsley is different from how she looks at Ian or I. She glows. She stares in awe, she laughs and smiles and coos and babbles. She LOVES her sister. And then there's Ainsley. When she feels the inclination to pause for a moment she adores Louise. She pats her belly, "helps" her roll over (by pulling on her hand...don't worry I supervise) tells her stories and sings her songs "Nigh-night Ya-Weez, It's time for nappy Ti-hime!" Tonight when Ainsley was distraught (for goodness knows what reason) during dinner, I prompted her to tell Louise her woes. She climbed down from the table, stood next to the swing and explained to Louise "Ainsley May want moh CHEESE! Mama say NO! Ainsley Cry." My heart melts reliving it. Such a precious sweet moment.

I've been explaining to Ainsley that Louise won't be a baby for ever. Someday she'll sit up, crawl, walk, RUN, just like her. "No mama. Silly mama. Mama CRAZY (thanks for teaching our two year old the word "crazy" Ian, at least she gets what it means). But it's true. Someday they'll both be little girls, then big girls, then young women. 20 months apart, sisters, and hopefully friends.

In those moments I get what my fellow blogger is talking about. It is sad in a way, to be left out of something that you created, that you want so desperately to be "in" on. But really, it's better, wonderful that they have their own "thing". My biggest (or at least one of the biggest) hope for my girls is that they are friends. My friendships with my 3 sisters are the most important to me. Perhaps I don't have as many close friends because I have such great relationships with my sisters. We can call and gripe about life, share in our joys and triumphs, cry in our moments of sorrow. I have a love for my sisters that I don't have anywhere else. I loved growing up together, playing together, learning together, getting into BIG trouble together. I am so thankful that I have them and so glad that Ainsley and Louise will always have each other.

Besides, I know now that the cycle will eventually come full circle. I know that for a good long time I will be MOM to Ainsley and Louise. I will be the enforcer, the comforter and supporter, but not the friend. I will tell them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. I learned from the best.

I say full circle because now my mom is one of my best friends. I call her all the time. I lean on her, not just for advice, but companionship. She is not only my rock, my confidant and my support but a kindred spirit. I can't wait to have that with my girls.

For now I relish in the fun we can have and the simplicity of our lives. I love my two girls, and whether they know it or not, I'll always be their best friend, their biggest fan, underneath all that mom stuff.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keep 'Em Coming

Clearly life is going well. I look back on my recent posts and notice that most of them are generally happy, with the occasional WHY WON'T MY TWO YEAR OLD listen to me rant snuck in every now and again.

Today I am compelled to write again about how great today has been. Currently Ainsley is zonked on the couch and Louise is napping in her carseat. After Ainsley refused to settle down in her room I opted to go out for a few errands rather than continue to listen to her dismantle her bedroom. After a Trader Joes (I caved...I just can't live without certain things in my fridge) and Target run (why is it that you go to Target for one or two things and leave with three bags full of stuff?) we pulled up to the house and I noticed the toddler chatter had ceased in the backseat. Ainsley was OUT. Oh well. I guess it will be a late night at the Vaagenes house.

Despite no "normal" naps today it's been great. After a morning of playing and using Ainsley's new window markers to decorate the front windows I bundled the girls up for the brisk walk to Musikgarten. Such a great class today. Ainsley did well and enjoyed all the active singing, dancing, and rhythm making. When it was time to leave there was a back up at the door so I decided to wait rather than charge through the crowd with the double stroller. This allowed me to strike up a casual conversation with a mom that I've been itching to start a friendship with for a months. I see her EVERYWHERE.

We first met when Ainsley was 8 months old at the park by our old apartment. She has a daughter one month older than Ainsley and while we tried to talk more our toddler daughters required our attention and we parted ways. I didn't see her again until this past spring when our daugher's musikgarten classes backed up to each others. Then I saw her at the farmers market all summer and even once at the midwives in the waiting room when she was also pregnant with her second daughter born 2 weeks before Louise.

I mean come on. WE HAVE THE SAME LIVES. I HAD to say something. But I felt so awkward. Anyone who knows me from high school and college would agree that I appear a fairly social person. I can talk to people. I like people. But there's something about meeting a new mom that feels like an awkward first date again (no offense Ian :o) I have such a fear of rejection. Plus, I don't just want to chat, I want more. I want a friendship, playdates, mom's night out. The whole nine yards. Can she see the desperation in my eyes? Am I playing the game right?

Then it happened. Before I could stutter out an invitation to her she asked ME for a playdate. ME!!! I could hardly believe it. Here I was thinking I was the lone wolf, secretly pining for her friendship and I guess all along she'd been thinking the same thing of me (or she's just normal, not crazy desperate like me and wanted to hang out, either way I'll take it). I guess I'm not the only new mom starved for companionship. I can't wait!

I'm currently ending the day with a freshly bathed Louise on my lap and Ian entertaining Ainsley in the kitchen. Such a good day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the Groove

We moved into our house just over a year ago, 13 months and 6 days to be exact and I just FINALLY feel like I've settled.

I took down the Christmas tree today. I was in one of those manic cleaning modes and needed to take advantage. After cleaning out the back room in the basement (to the extent that I could with both Ainsley and Louise in tow) I was primed for success. After removing the ornaments, bead garland and abundance of lights I just couldn't fathom waiting for Ian to come home to remove the dying plant from our home. I lugged it (stand and all because I couldn't get it off) to the back door, on the trek getting caught in each and every doorway and arch, even running into Louise's swing where she lay happily asleep. I laughed at myself when I saw the mess I'd made, surprised there were ANY needles left on the tree. Oh well, it's done and in it's place is the fruit of Ainsley's and my Valentine's project: salt dough cut out ornaments painted and hung from the eves of our sunroom with the new paper chain (I'm obsessed).

I take such joy in our home. Decorating, rearranging, cleaning (most of the time). As I was shoveling the walk with Ainsley this morning (yes WITH Ainsley...she only ran into the street twice) I was struck by a thought..this is home. Not just a temporary, we'll be leaving in a year home, but home. I have friends here, a support system, a routine. It's comfortable and familiar. I love that we have just enough room for the 4 of us. The kitchen is just my style and size. I love the rugs on the hardwood floors and the old wood moldings and ceiling details. The only thing that would make it PERFECT would be a working fireplace. Who knows if we're here long enough?

I've battled with "home" for the whole 3.5 years we've been in Oak Park. What it is, where it is. I finally feel like I'm there. I of course still have that longing when I'm back in MN. The convenience of being close to family would be wonderful but honestly, I don't mind the solitude sometimes (no offense family, you know how much I love you!). I'm looking forward to the coming 2.5 month stretch at home (we have plans for Florida in late March...SO excited!). Time to get in a routine. Remind Louise that she can sleep through the night and Ainsley that naps are still a necessity. Time to lounge in jammies in the morning and play in the snow in the afternoons. Time to bake cookies and cook soups and fresh bread. Time to sing and dance to our favorite songs and just be our little family of 4. I could be here for a long time if I need to be, if we need to be. I like it here.

I finally feel like I can take ownership of this place, our home. I feel like I've gotten down this parent of two thing and can now get done what I need to in a day. I find I look forward to going out now instead of dreading buckling two little ones in their carseats. Our winter walks in the Bob have been lifesavers for all (Louise's chubby cheeks all pink from the cold...cutest thing in the world). Most days I feel rested, rejuvinted and motivated. I've even found time in the mornings to do some pilates (Ainsley does it with me...also the cutest thing in the world). I may not be happy all the time, no one is, but I am so thankful for our home and our family and this place that we are.

Just wanted to share my happiness and satisfaction, sometimes I feel there's too little of it roaming around these days.

P.S. The "no grocery shopping week" has thus far been a success. Meals so far:

Orange Brown Butter Sole with mashed potatoes and peas and carrots
Nachos with ground beef taco meat, black olives, cheese, guacamole and salsa
Tarragon Chicken Pasta and green beans
Lentil, sweet potato and quinoa stew
Sausage* Sweet Potato and Apple Bake with homemade white bread and green beans

*I didn't have iltalian sausage so I took the skin off some bratwurst I had in the freezer and browned that up instead...Ian couldn't tell the difference until I told him

Some pictures from our New Year so far:

Ainsley and Louise all dolled up for New Years

Ainsley gearing up for Florida (most of her summer clothes still fit...she's such a peanut!)


Ainsley's new obsession...rice!

sister time

My girls

the happiest baby on the planet..seriously, I'm convinced.

salt dough ornaments!

finished product

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Day(s)

These past two days have been amazing. After declaring out loud my desire to "simplify" I've felt more calm and way less pressure to fit so much in a day.

Yesterday held nothing spectacular except for all the fun we had. Ainsley was wonderful, helpful and jolly as we cleaned up the kitchen together (thanks again Dan and Ruth for the toddler sized broom, dust pan and brush...SUCH life savers!). We have rekindled her love for the sensory bin (the treacherous beans replaced with more benign rice) which kept her busy for a solid hour while I turned the leftover ham from Ainsley's birthday into a cheesy potato soup.

I've started trying to involve Ainsley in as much of the cooking as I can to 1. make sure she's not one of those kindergartners who don't know where food comes from (the answer is NOT the grocery store!) 2. it takes up time in the day and 3. in the hopes that she takes some ownership of the food and actually EATS something. So far so good.

Yesterday she devoured both the soup and the homemade bread that she helped me measure out and today she thoroughly enjoyed both her oatmeal and pears that she helped cut up.

Yesterday morning marked the start of the winter season of Musikgarten. I continue to think that she couldn't love it more, and then she does. She sings the songs ALL day every day and relishes in the wonderful teacher and like aged students in her class. This session we have a lot of the same children and I 'm hoping we'll start to make some lasting friendships. I pulled out the double stroller to walk to and from class and despite the few judging glances I got from NON COUPED UP parents it went well and everyone arrived safe and toasty warm thanks to layers, blankets, and the amazing Bob stroller canopy.

Today was another wonderful day. I woke up well rested (thank you Louise) and energized. Problem was there wasn't much on the docket. No real need for errands, grey sky with flurries falling down and freezing temperatures making a walk seem out of reach. In an effort to not go crazy I opted to throw the girls in the car and head to whole foods to buy some yogurt and do some good old fashioned browsing. We ended up buying a bunch of teeny tiny amounts of things from the bulk bins (figs, chocolate covered almonds, raisins, yogurt covered pretzels) just to try, got a fresh zucchini muffin to share and a few other things to tide us over through the weekend. (On a complete side note I've decided NOT to go grocery shopping next week for anything other than staples (pretty much milk, eggs, cheese, and yogurt) and get a little creative with the cooking. I'm desperate to clean out the pantry and freezer and figure this is a good way to do it!)

After our errand I decided to really splurge and toddle with Ainsley by my side and Louise on my front to the nearby starbucks for a treat for Ainsley. She stood in line like a big girl and got her first vanilla steamer complete with whipped cream. I only wish I had my camera to show the excitement on her face. (probably the best 1.49 I've ever spent...not only did she love the drink and savor each sip, but afterwards played with the cup and lid in the sink for a half hour) What a big girl I have. Louise was actually up most of the time and just as I was trying to figure out what to do with the next 2 hours until nap time I ran into a good friend that I haven't seen in a few months and she invited us over for an impromptu playdate. I forwent the necessary diaper changes for and hour and a half of relative sanity with other adults and children. Such a fun way to spend the morning.

It's been two days of relatively good moods and fun. Louise continues to be such a happy baby and now loves to spend her time sitting up in the bumbo, in the exersuacer, the johnny jump up or on my hip. Ainsley has been such a helper and very sweet, singing songs around the house, playing with her sister, taking good naps for her mom. Ainsley squealed with laughter tonight when Louise grabbed her shirt and started sucking. Those two little girls are such a joy.

Don't worry, I'm totally bracing myself for a horrendous day tomorrow, but the last two have made it so worth it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What a Start

Uff Da. I'm not even's just that kind of day. I woke up in a bad mood, cranky, slow to start. Reading all of the HAPPY NEW YEAR posts on f-book made it all the worse. Why don't I feel as optimistic about 2011? Not that I feel particularly pessimistic, just not JUMPING FOR JOY! like the rest of the world seems to be.

Perhaps it's because today is another normal day. Nothing changed, nothing new. I still have a to do list a mile long, 10 SOLID pounds to lose, a mild cold, and the good 3 mile run that would cure it all still seems so out of my reach.

Fresh start though right? Today IS a new day, a new year for gosh sakes. If there's ever a day to start a new, today is it.

Ian asked me what my New Years resolution was last night and I paused. Lose weight/get in shape seems far too cliche. World peace? well duh, but unfortunately equally unattainable. Then it dawned on me... SIMPLIFY.

I wrote a post, what, 2 days ago about my struggle to come to terms with the new "simpler" me and now here I am wishing it on my whole life, my husband, my daughters, my house....everything. I am so overwhelmed with life on a daily basis. What clothes to put the girls in, how messy out house gets, how to possibly organize efficiently everything we own, money, what to spend it on, how to save it, who to give it to once we have some saved...everything seems like SO MUCH.

I used to watch this show called Avonlea growing up with my mom and sisters. It was a spin off of the Anne of Green Gables movies and I LOVED it. Not just for the flowing turn of the century dresses and petticoats, or horse drawn carriages used as transportation through the islands of Nova Scotia but for the simplicity of their lives. Yes life was hard, farming most of your own food, stoking the fire for warmth in the winter, sweating like a banshee in the summer, walking miles and miles to do anything. It sounds amazing. Just the kind of life I want. Hard, SIMPLE work.

But here I am living in the closest suburb to one of the largest cities in the country with a matchbox sized lawn, no real park or greenery in site or path on which to get to it (unless you count treacherous sidewalks), and the closest body of water costs money to go visit (seriously, have you checked out a parking lot by lake Michigan...CRAZY expensive). To top it off I'm raising two children here, amidst the humdrum of DVD players in cars, 12 billion shows on television, iphones and apps galore. Of course I can't "shelter" them from all this technology, truth be told I take advantage of most of it, but if I were honest with myself it wouldn't be my choice.

I so crave a truly simple life. Living in a remote village somewhere in a quaint old house with warm wool rugs beneath my toes and the only sound from outside would be the wind in the trees and the birds in the air. I want a hill to hike on, a lake to swim in and woods to run through. I want cash instead of credit cards in my pocket and a well stocked bookshelf, a chicken coop in the backyard and berry patches in the front. I want to play games at night with my family and surround ourselves with good music, company, and fun.

Sometimes I feel like I miss out on so much because of all the scurry and hurry to get so much done. For what? To check one more thing off my silly to do list? For new years I vow to take a good look at my life and to truly simplify in every way that I can. Spend as little time as possible on the things that don't matter and spend as much as I can on the things that do.

So I guess it is a HAPPY NEW YEAR after all. Funny how it seems to always work out that way.