Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I was up at 6 with my tiny guy.  HE's sleeping through the night which is glorious.  So of course now he's up at the crack of dawn instead of his usual 7:30am arousal.  I'll take it.  I love calm mornings with my baby.

This morning we made coffee and ogled each other for a bit.  Then I thought I'd check out some deals online, excited to find that a few items in my Magic Cabin cart had gone on sale for black friday, ooh carter's too.  Party gifts for Ainsley's birthday and stocking stuffers, done and done. Ahh.

Ian had to work today.  It makes this weekend feel much less holiday-y I will say.  It makes it a bit more interesting too that it's Black Friday meaning venturing out sounds like torture.  So inside it is.

This morning the girls and I made three batches of cookie dough.  They have a school fundraiser "cookie walk" next weekend and we need to bake 12 dozen decorated cookies to donate.  I think the first batch will be fun.  I'm preparing for the rest to feel like a whole lot of work.  This year we're sticking to the basics.  Decorated gingerbread, stained glass sugar cutouts and painted sugar cookies.  I hope we have enough stamina to make some more for ourselves a bit later in the season!

The kids are all resting and I just finished rearranging and cleaning the living room.  half in preparation for decorating this weekend and half just to scratch that fung shui itch I get about every 4 months.  It's nice to get a good deep clean and feel a bit more organized.  Especially right on the brink of so much holiday chaos.

I've been struggling a bit this fall with that whole "holiday cheer" feeling.  Usually I am SO into it, plans months in advance, excitement of a tiny child etc. etc.  This year I'm feeling a bit less gung ho.  I'm still pretty tired most days from all this child caring I do.  I just want it to be easy and to enjoy it all a bit more.

I am excited for Dec. 1.  Today we brought out some decorations to get organized.  Last year I segregated the child friendly ones so it should be a relatively easy set up.
I'm most excited for our stocking advent, Ainsley too.  She remembered getting to look in the stockings every morning to see what treat awaits them.  She's a girl after he mama's heart.  I've always been a stocking girl myself.  I'm glad I've stashed away some fun treats and goodies, and counting on fun holiday-ey plans and recipes to get us through the rest of the days.  For any bit of cheer I'm lacking my girls make up for it.  They are SO excited.

Oh, so this post was titled Thanksgiving.  I guess I should write about that!  We had an awesome day.  I'm so bummed we only have ONE photo (of my Gram and her cranberry sauce).  I didn't cook or host this year which was so wonderful but it made thhe day so casual fun it hardly felt like an event.  I'll have to get the kids dressed up and take a post holiday photo this weekend.

We started our day in jammies with the parades on in the background.  Then I made pumpkin pie with the girls.  I believe we added almost twice the recommended amount of spices...I left the girls alone with the jars, whoops!  Then we made our contribution to our shared meal, green bean casserole, trader joes style.  I love their crispy onions and portabello mushroom soup.
Then we headed over to our friend's house for the meal.  The girls were SO excited to play with their friend Lily and it was lots of fun to hang out and eat and play with friends.  Lizz is an amazing cook and the food was so good.  It was the perfect meal.
After stuff in ourselves to the brim we headed back home to whip up some cream, grab our pie and drive up to Winnetka for our second celebration.  We went to my aunt and uncle's house and ended up getting to eat a bit more turkey and gravy before our pie and our drive home.  The girls had tons of fun with my cousins.  My 10th grade cousin Kiley has the most perfect amazing girl bedroom ever and the girls were enamored.  It was so much fun to see my Gram too, and her perfect cranberry sauce.  It was a great day.

Now I'm looking forward to the weekend.  To picking out a tree and decorating a bit, perhaps seeing that new Disney movie with the girls and getting the last of the shopping done.  Perhaps I'll even pull out the wrapping paper and get going on that a bit.

I love this time, I'm just trying to live it day by day and eek out every bit of joy from this season and my wonderful family.

Second Snow

Yesterday it snowed.  The flurries started just as I was heading out to pick up the girls from school.  It continued right on until the sun went down leaving a thick dusting everywhere.  We suited up and enjoyed it unil Felix's pink cheeks pulled us back indoors.  We gulped down cups of our homemade hot cocoa and lit candles.  It was a delightful afternoon.

This weekend I made an epic grocery run.  Two stores, 8 bags, way too much money.  Then I cooked and baked and now our freezer and fridge are full.  I'm finding it so hard to cook on weekday nights.  My little guy only wants to be held from 4:30pm until bedtime.  It's such a load off to know that we're covered for about two weeks.  Ah, peace.

Iny's Prune Cake
Beef Enchiladas
Marzetti's Spaghetti Pie (from Joy of Cooking)
Comfort Meatballs (served with mashed potatoes, one of the most delicious comforting meals ever)

I've been ordering lots of things for Christmas and Ainsley's birthday.  I'm feeling really quilty about it all, especially since we bought almost nothing last year for the holidays.  At the same time I'm letting it go, knowing that I'm not going nuts, and enjoying getting to pick out some fun things for my girls and my guys (and myself...hey! my feet HAVE grown a full half size!)

I am in LOVE with my new Report boots...I feel so, so...fancy :o)
The gifts I'm most excited about are of course for the kids.  My favorite gifts for the girls are their own yoga mats and 1 lb weights.  I'm so tired of them fighting over mine when we work out together.  I'm also SO excited about their new games.  We play games every afternoon and while I love Orchard, Shopping Cart, and Feed the Woozle, I'm definitely getting excited to switch it up a bit.  
It's always nice to get people things you know they are going to love!

It's almost been hard to shop for Ainsley this year because there is SO much that I want to get her.  I know her so well now and with her birthday and Christmas all wrapped up together I try my best to really think through the year and get her things that I know she'll need and want for the next long while.  

I've also been having tons of fun with Ainsley planning her fifth birthday party.  If you recall last year she wasn't interested in a friend party and it's been surprisingly fun to have her on board again this year.  Since we're just having a party at home I was hoping to go with the one friend per year rule, but then the list grew to about 12.  8 are coming so far and I must say I'm excited!  She wanted it to be all about fairies but seeing as there will be some boys in attendance we decided on fairies and pirates.  She's VERY excited.

Ah snow and festivities and yummy food.  This is so very much my favorite time of year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Girl BoyThing

As I have grown it has become more and more apparent to me that I am an incredibly lucky person.
I used to think not. I used to think I was cursed.
EVERY year in elementary school I'd spend most of my allotted money at the winter carnival at school on that damn cake walk, DESPERATE to win my very own cake.  I never won.  Not one year.  I was sure I was cursed.
And then there were the bad room draw numbers in college.  If you didn't go to a teeny tiny liberal arts school I'll spare you the details, but it basically meant last pick of the rooms on campus.
You know what?  That actually worked out.  I ended up with the best roommates ever Junior year, in one of the coolest triples on campus.  Things were starting to look up.

Now as an adult?  I'm pretty sure I have some of the best luck.  I found an amazing man to share my life with, we have three beautiful children and a full happy life together.  Things are great.  And after seeing this video I feel even luckier.  That I don't even have to think about this gender stuff for the most part because I have been surrounded by the most amazing men in the world.

You see, I was the second born of four girls.  I never knew what little boys were like.  Sure we had tons of dolls and Barbies and dress up clothes and pink stuff, but we also had Tonka bulldozers and trucks, a full sports bin in the garage with bats and balls and gloves and equal opportunity parents who made sure we all knew how to change a tire and sent us to college with a toolbox in hand.

Until this video, it honestly never occurred to me to think differently.  That perhaps there really are people out there who believe that because of the girl and the pink and the dolls, we maybe aren't as smart, or challenged, or capable.

I take particular offense because I'm that girl they speak so harshly of.  I am a homemaker, by choice. I got a bachelor of arts degree from a great school and most days I don't use that education in the traditional sense.

I am raising two little girls, and a baby boy and am asked often if it's different with our baby.  Of course it isn't.  He's a baby.  And when he's big enough to hold a crayon and smash play dough and stir ingredients in a bowl and finger knit and sit on my lap to sew, he'll do all of those things just like his sisters.  He'll also wear their scuffed up unicorn and smiley faced helmets and zoom on their pink bikes.  He'll always be running to catch them because MAN they're fast.

I hear that a lot too.  That now that I have a boy I'll know what rambunctious is, what rowdy is, oh boy, you just wait!  No waiting necessary thank you.  Anyone who has met my first born knows that that girl can keep up with (and outrun, out climb, out wit) just about any boy.  I'm not bragging, it's truth.  Her preschool teachers tell me it's so.  That girl walks up to the "Crew" in the block area and bosses them around and they LISTEN to her.  They do what she says.  She's a force.

So they're girls, but that's one of the last thoughts that cross my mind when I look at my two older children.  They are beautiful smart capable excited interesting little people and I know without a doubt that they can do whatever they put their minds to.

They can look into microscopes and crunch data and solve complicated questions like their daddy, they can become a household chef, creative madwoman, mama extraordinaire like their mom. They can do anything and everything in between.  And you know what?  It's all worthy.

I don't dislike that video.  I guess I get it now.  I've taken for granted that my gender was never an issue for me, that I always knew I could do anything I set my mind to.

Perhaps I'll get Ainsley that fun engineering set for Christmas, it looks like a cool toy.  But I don't for one minute think that a toy can define a child.  Pink or blue, domesticated or logical or physical.  It's a toy.  Its the way we raise our children, the people we surround them with.  That's what really matters.

Thank you dad.  Thank you Bop.  Thank you Uncle Bert and Mr. Beck and Mr. Coady and Mr. Orstad and Mr. Rogers (8th grade science teacher, not dad) and Wendell Arneson and John Saurer and Professor Durocher.  Thank you to at least 27 other men that I've left out.  Thank you for being strong sensitive men who never gave me a moment's pause over my preference for pink, who let me grow knowing that I was capable and that my choices were many.  For being feminists without me even knowing.

Thank you Mom.  Than you grandma and Gram.  Thank you Aunt Gail and Kelly, Mrs. Rondesdvedt,  and Karen Cherewatuk.  Thank you to all of the women who showed me first hand, how amazing women are.

 And thank you to my husband, the father of my three beautiful children, you are the best role model, the most supreme advocate, that I can imagine for them all.

I am the luckiest, and I'm happy to say I'm pretty sure my kids will be too.
I hope the same for yours, pink or blue.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Moment and Little Bits

We're almost three full months into the school year and I feel like I'm still shuffling around in the mornings.  Most mornings there is so much that needs to get done, at the same time I know I need to take my alone time while I can and rest if I'm going to need it at all to get me through the day.  We're still there I guess, in the thick of ohmygoodnessthisissohardtheyneedmeallthetime parenting.  I'm taking my breaths while I can.

So most mornings after Felix and I drop the girls off I come home, put him to bed and pour myself a second cup of coffee and sit.  Even if it's just for 10, 15 minutes, it feels so good.  Then I get to it, and feel good about getting things done, so I don't go crazy and so that when I go pick those two precious girls up I can focus on them and have a great rest of our day.  It's mostly working.  I love preschool mornings.

Ainsley loves preschool.  I haven't had an issue at drop off for weeks now.  She marches right in, hangs up her things and gets to it, hardly remembering to say goodbye to me anymore.  IT's sad in a way, but just how it should be.  She always has so many elaborate stories from her mornings at school.  I doubt most of them are real, she's an embellisher, but they're fun and I love her excitement.

Another milestone to note is our Ainsley girl is writing.  I know I've mentioned this before, but up until now she's still needed lots of help sounding things out, now she just sits and writes and for the most part is REALLY good at spelling words out on her own.  I think she's very motivated by all those stories she has in her head.  She loves to write.

This past weekend we had a mommy daughter date.  We were down to two pairs of thrifted shoes that fit her so she needed a new pair.  When I suggested that we go to get some more she pleaded with me.  "Oh mommy, can we please go to a new store, one that's just for shoes, brand new shoes?" You know you're gotten sucked into the thrift shop vortex when your child is Pollyanna style excited to go get new shoes, store bought shoes, at a real store!

Oh we had fun.  Ainsley picked out the blinkiest sparkliest shoes she could find.  We went to Nordstroms where they actually have great deals on last seasons shoes.  We got her a pair of $48 stride rites for $29, still WAY more than I typically spend pn shoes, but she loves them and needed them and they're really nice shoes.  Oh but we didn't stop there.  We got her a new twirly Christmas dress and Christmas presents for Pop and Uncle Joey.  I made the mistake of touring the Disney store with her where she wanted EVERYTHING so we ended up leaving with a Tinkerbell ornament for Ainsley and a Minnie Mouse one for Louise.  Then we ate lunch at the cheesecake Factory.  It was a great special morning with my girl.

We got home and heard all about Louise's morning with daddy and Felix.  They had some fun too at the conservatory and lunch at Indian buffet.

Oh my Louise, such a little spark plug.  Yesterday morning she was CRUSHED that she didn't have school, cried and cried because she loves her teachers so much.  She's such a happy little girl at school, loves her friends and being out and about.  Whenever I ask her what she wants to do in the afternoons she replies "go scooting to a pawl mama".  She LOVES her scooter and parks, and wearing her crazy hair down and pink, and dresses with tights and her cinderella shoes, and drawing and painting and play dough and crackers and eggs and anything sweet.  She's still in a sassy three year old stage of life, but still so sweet and snuggly.  I love my Louise.

And Felix, my little guy, I feel like I haven't been documenting him enough.  He's almost 7 months old.  He slept SO well last week and this weekend didn't sleep so well.  It's so hard for me to let him cry at night.  I love him so much and all he wants is to nurse and snuggle and he goes right back to sleep.  He has me wrapped around his little chubby fingers.

His baby temperament so far is somewhere between Ainsley and Louise's.  He's definitely not as docile and "easy" as Louise, not quite as fussy and desperate to move as Ainsley.  He LOVES being held, in particular by me.  The hardest time of the day for me with him is from about 4:30 - 5:30 when I'm tired and trying to figure out dinner and the girls need extra direction and he just wants to be held. It's VERY hard not to pour myself a glass of wine every day at that time :o).

Oh but he's a good baby.  He loves sitting up on the floor just grabbing and playing and biting on things.  He makes the best happy scream sound and I can really get him laughing with tickles and silliness.  He is a really good eater and LOVES food.  He still doesn't show much interest in a bottle but eats at every meal with us, some mum mums in between, and nurses every few hours still.  WE've started giving him baths with the girls and he loves that.  He just splashes and giggles.  The girls love it too.  They love their little "bubba boo" SO much.  We're pretty blesses to have three amazing little ones that all love each other so much.

As for me?  Right now I'm trying to find a balance in my days.  I have so much that I want to get done for the holidays that it's hard to be present with the kids in the afternoons.  It's very tempting to just pop on a show or set up a simple craft and leave them be so I can work.  I'm learning to use rest time well, even if it means no real rest for me.  And Ainsley is so big that she can be a real help with projects now, Louise too.  I made myself a new top last week in the two hours I had one morning while the girls were at school and Felix slept.  I needed that jumpstart, I've been lagging with my sewing projects.  Funny because last year I found it so hard to motivate to knit, this year it's the reverse.  I'm LOVING knitting right now.  It'll all get done right?

At any rate, life it still good.  I'm thankful for a fun weekend behind us and full week ahead and Thanksgiving next week.  It's going to be good.
Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Sleep, Grumpy Mom

IT's been a rough morning at the Vaagenes house, and it's completely my fault.  You see, Felix is not sleeping well.  Has not been sleeping well for two solid months now.  Every single night he wakes up JUST as I'm drifting off to sleep...right at 11pm.  Then around 3 or 4 he's up again, ravenous.  He's eating two big baby food meals a day and some table food. We give him a 6 oz bottle before bed that he doesn't usually finish.  He goes to sleep just fine, we lay him down awake.  We're three kids in, we know the drill.  NOTHING IS WORKING.

Last night he screamed for a solid hour before finally going back to sleep at 4am.  I was so grumpy this morning.  I love my baby, but I'm over it.  I NEED SLEEP.

And those poor girls of mine are suffering.  I have NO patience with them.  I expect so much of them in mornings.  I want them to just focus and hurry and get ready all on their own and I feel so sad after I drop them off because I've missed out on so many opportunities to enjoy them in the mornings, to snuggle and help and love.  Ah.  I'm feeling bad about that today.

So I've spent my free time tidying and trying to revamp.  While cleaning out a few drawers around the house I stumbled across and old Aiken Drum I drew with the girls a long time ago.  I think they'd like to do another one today.  That was always a favorite.  And then we best wash those pumpkins off the window so that we can paint something new for the Thanksgiving season.  Perhaps a big Turkey? Some leaves?  IT's so sunny and bright out but COLD.  I want to have fun with them this afternoon.  I felt like a bad mom this morning.

I am feeling sad right now.  It's not their fault that their brother isn't sleeping well and that I'm grumpy.  IT's not even really Felix's fault.  He's a baby.  I never knew sleep deprivation until this very minute.  My bags have bags.  Ah.  Please sleep tonight Felix...I want to feel like a good mom again.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Halloween and Galena and that week in Between

I came on to write about our weekend and then got totally sidetracked by the fact that I never wrote about Halloween.  For shame!

Halloween was great.  The girls were so excited to be Satsuki and Mei from Totoro and Felix as a tiny Totoro was pretty darn cute.

In retrospect I'm surprised that it was all as easy as it was.  The costumes weren't too tricky to make, everyone was happy and excited.  Ainsley did want to wear her penguin costume to school but when I picked her up she'd changed into her Mei costume and was so happy to trick or teat in it (in the rain!).  I think she and I have both mellowed quite a bit over this past year.  It's all not such a big deal.

The girls didn't mind the rain at all and we still got two good blocks in, ran into friends and Ainsley in particular REALLY enjoyed handing out candy once we were done.  She was doing this hilarious thing where she'd open the doors, then bend down on one knee and hold the wooden bowl up like an offering to the kids.  It was so hilarious.  I'm laughing out loud right now just thinking about it.  She also switched costumes.  Her Mei costume got a bit wet so she went upstairs and came down in a very eclectic garden fairy costume.  Next year I'll just have them raid their dress up bin I think!  She looked so cute and was so proud!

Carving pumpkins the weekend before Halloween was so fun.  The girls both grabbed some guts, though Ainsley was reluctant at first.  Louise told her to be brave so she did.  She's not one to have her little sister show her up!  The girls both wanted happy pumpkins and were a bit nervous about me making a scary face.  I went ahead with my plan mainly because I'm trying to show them it's not a big deal and not REALLY scary to have a spooky jack o lantern.  They came around in the end and liked all of ours.  Felix had a ball just hugging and patting and sucking on his pumpkin while we all carved.  Just like a 6 month old should.  It was a great time.

So Halloween was great and we spent the next week enjoying normalcy.  I had Felix's 6 month appointment and the girls' conferences, and we scheduled lots of playdates.  The week just flew by!

Felix is holding steady in the 70th percentile for both height and weight.  He's growing so well, eating tons, now I just need him to stop wanting to eat all night!  Thanks to mom friends on Facebook I found a bottle that he'll finally take.  The Playtex nurser.  I find it hilarious that this third baby of mine only wants to nurse and when he will take a bottle it's the cheapest plastic kind.  Ha!  Oh Felix, you're lucky you're so cute :o)

The girls' conferences this year were a breeze.  I remember being so anxious last year.  It was all new!   This year I was looking forward to sitting down with the girls' teachers.  Ainsley's teachers talked about her "astounding and magnificent vocabulary", her impressive (and relentless!) creativity and how well she plays with other children.  I can brag a bit because I'll happily admit that we both agreed we need to work on her transitioning from one activity to another and taking care of her belongings.  It's always good to know that teachers see the same things I do and that we're all working towards the same thing, happy to have our Ainsley girl around.  She's pretty great.

Louise's teacher teared up talking about her.  She's apparently pretty sweet and fun to have in class.  It's always nice when a teacher starts a conference with "she is an absolute joy, i know I'm supposed to find a concern, but I just can't".  I stressed that we're continuing to work on letter recognition with Louise, mainly because she seems to eager to learn to read like Ainsley is and she's ready!  
I'm growing to love conferences.  It's nice to have confirmation that we have two pretty great girls on our hands and aren't completely screwing up in the parenting department :o).

Coming off such a great week I guess I was feeling adventurous and decided we needed a little family trip.  I inquired on Facebook about Galena, IL and got an unexpected message from an old friend offering their house to us in the area.  So we packed up and left on Saturday morning.  Galena is about three hours away and the drive was easy enough.  The scenery out in northwest Illinois is beautiful, rolling hills with trees, lots of farms, sheep, horses, cows.  The home was beautiful and the girls in particular enjoyed the family's fondness of disney, in particular the tinkerbell/princess room they got to stay in.

We ended up just staying for a night and I took NO pictures.  Sadly a lot of the activities that we had counted on were not available.  Horseback riding was closed for the season as was the alpaca farm, and downtown was not as kid friendly (or delicious) as we had been hoping for.  Still it was fun to have a little family adventure.  Ian and I spent our one evening away sipping on mead playing a rousing game of Big Bang Theory Trivia and then went to bed early.  Ian took the girls to the resort pool while I packed up the next afternoon and we were back in Oak Park 36 hours after we left.  I think for now we'll stick to familiar vacation spots.  It's a bit hard to be spontaneous and flexible with two preschoolers and a baby who still doesn't sleep well.

Now we're home.  It's a rainy cold day with the promise of flurries this afternoon.  I'm hopeful!  I went grocery shopping just now all by myself, thanks to Ian having the day off of work, and I'm excited for some good food this week.  I feel like all we've had to eat the last few days are fries and burgers!  On the menu is chicken curry, another batch of a delicious butternut squash soup that I made last week, this time with a side of scallops, alaskan salmon with sweet potato swiss chard gratin, homemade chicken noodle soup per Ainsley's request, and calzones.  Mmmm.  I best get cracking' in the kitchen.  I hope you all had a great weekend!