Sunday, December 2, 2012

Audrey - 12 months

My Audrey.  I knew I would love you but I had no idea how much you would hold my heart.  You are my angel.  You are one year now and I wish I could rewind time and live some of this last year over again.  It has gone so fast and I already feel like timing is flying by with you faster than it did with your brother.

I think back to a year ago now, when we met for the first time.  You came out all fiesty and spirit (if quite reluctantly) but immediately calmed down to your sweet cuddly self.  You were an old soul from the start.  You barely had your eyes open for the first few weeks.  In the hospital, you slept on me, curled up and snuggly, every night.  I couldn't bear to send you to the nursery once I had a bit of your sweet and peaceful cuddles.  How different you were from the start from your brother, who I'd hear crying down the hall.  You were serene and calm from the beginning.

Our beginning did not start out how I expected and I still mourn the moments lost when I handed you off to others to eat.  But there's no denying that our bond is unshakeable, whether you ate in my arms or any others.  Your mama is your favorite person and you are my favorite little girl.

You are still a teeny little thing, at barely over 17lbs. You wear size 3 diapers and are fitting in and outgrowing some of your 12 month clothes.  Your hair continues to grow and I constantly keep a bow in it to keep it out of your face and eyes.  Although you went through a phase a few months ago where you were pulling it out, you pretty much leave it alone now and I'm glad for that.  Headbands, though, are a different story. 

You love to be held.  Although you're showing interest in standing and taking tentative steps with help and with the walkers, your favorite place is in my arms.  I often feel a little tug on my legs, look down and see you staring up at me, waiting to be picked up.  You are so content just hanging out in my arms.

Your personality is really starting to come out.  You are a rascal!  You love to head over to Payton's food and water bowls.  Sometimes you just sit there, then when we see you and start to rush over to pick them up, you get a big grin and reach out to stick your hands in them.  Fun game for you!  You are starting to hold your own with your brother, trying to keep him from taking your toys.  You like to grab his and I wonder sometimes if part of you is doing it to get a rise out of him?  Catching on already, little sister? 

You are a mama's girl, that is for sure.  You are much more reserved and hesitant.  Not one to just jump into anyone's arms and not one to just smile indiscriminately at strangers.  You need to warm up to people and even then, you're still comfortable primarily in my arms, observing. 

I cannot imagine our family without your little spirit.  You are such a very special part of my life and I'm so incredibly thankful you are ours. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


 Happy Halloween!  I am kind of a cheeseball about this holiday.  I love to see the little ones all dressed up in their costumes.  I still remember the nervous anticipation of this holiday and the excitement at seeing everyone look so out-of-the-ordinary.  It's fun to relive some of the feelings now as a parent. 

I know I have limited time left while I can still dress Barrett in cute costumes, before he wants to be superman or a transformer or some other total boy costume, so I had to take advantage of it of course.  Barrett was just the cutest little monkey and LOVED his costume.  He was so excited to wear it. 

The Saturday before Halloween we met some of our friends for trick-or-treating in a local town.  It was great fun to see our friends again and to enjoy a gorgeous day.  Barrett understood what he was supposed to be doing so we got a big kick out of watching him.  
 Little miss ladybug was along for the ride too. 

 Last  year Barrett was in awe but afraid of this Elmo but this year, he ran right up to give hugs.

 This is Audrey's latest move.  When she's feeling silly, she'll crane back as far as she can, smiling.  I love to nibble on her neck when she does this. 
 Afterwards, we went to the local library to play.  They have a great library, with the entire basement for kids, lots of books and puzzles and tables to play on.
 Walking back to the car.  This is Barrett's oldest friend, who he met when he was just 12 weeks old.  These two love each other and are so cute together.

I even got in on the Halloween action for once.  Halloween has become somewhat of a big holiday at my company in the last few years.  They really encourage costumes, and served apple cider donuts and apple cider in the morning.  For lunch, they brought in pizzas and cake, lots of candy and had awards for costumes.  My department is known for being the stick-in-the-muds at holiday season.  This year we decided to fool everyone.  We were all dressed in our normal clothes and received lots of eye rolling at our lack of participation yet again.  Then mid-morning, we dressed up as sumo wrestlers and paraded around the office to the song "I'm Sexy and I Know It."  Yes, this is what I wore:

It was completely unexpected, especially coming from me, who is usually pretty straight laced at work!

Halloween night was a little tough because it was a weeknight and so the usual madcap race to daycare and home ensued.  But we managed to get around the neighborhood.  We actually met up with our neighbors, who were heading out the same time we were, so it was nice to have some company.   Unfortunately, I didn't get too many photos because it was so late and we needed to get going. Oh well.

So that's our Halloween! It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is now just around the corner!

2012 Election

Well the votes have been mostly counted and the election results are in.

I am greatly disappointed and saddened this morning.  I am going to try hard to temper my feelings here with diplomacy and consideration for my friends who on the opposite side of the political spectrum but still try to express my frustrated feelings.

I am really scared with the direction our country is heading and I'm not sure it'll change.  4 years ago, Tim and I watched the election results rolling in and were not surprised with the outcome.  But we predicted that night that 4 years later our country would be in pain with this greatly inexperienced and partisan president in charge from our state known for its corruption and back-room dealings and that the election results would be a lot different.  Well only half that is true this morning.

This was my first election voting as a mother and it's amazing how much my feelings changed.  Not for who I was voting for, which didn't change, but why I was voting.  This time I voted with a much heavier and prayerful heart.  Thinking about the future of our country, the direction it's heading, the safety and well-being of these little bodies tucked into their beds in footie pajamas and the responsibility that I have to look out for them drove my vote.  Sure, I want to keep more of the money that I worked hard to earn, I want to want to be kept safe from those who want to harm me, and I want to avoid government interference in my daily life.  But mostly what I want is a better life for my kids.  I want to know that they're protected and safe and that their future is bright and optimistic, that someday they'll have good jobs and can buy homes and tuck their kids in at night someday in the future. The gravity of the election was so much heavier on my heart and mind than it ever has been before.

I am flabbergasted that the majority of Americans agree with me in thinking this country is headed in the wrong direction yet did nothing to try to change that.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  I'd like to think that 4 years from now we'll see vastly different results, but if the current state of this country don't persuade us to try a new tactic, than I don't see anything changing.  We've created such a society of dependence rather than Independence, of government reliance rather than self-reliance, of entitlement and expectation rather than hard work and ingenuity.  Unfortunately now, so many of our citizens are in this entitlement cycle and will likely never break out of it and that will have a huge impact on our future.

I'm an Accountant.  I think in dollars and cents and I'm very practical when it comes to decisions and outcomes.  I spend 45+ hours a week analyzing financial statements, reviewing profit and loss numbers and discussing budgets, forecasts, and actuals. But I don't think you need to be a CPA to understand that $16 trillion of debt is financial suicide for our country.  Forget terrorist threats - we are going to do ourselves in before long.  My kids' share of the national debt is over $100k and I am so angry at our leaders for the unfairness of this, for this selfishness and short-sighted thinking for which my kids and their kids will be paying the price. This spend, spend, spend mentality leads to a fantastic instant gratification but misery and self-destruction over time.   

I hope and pray that I'm wrong.  I sincerely hope that the decisions the Administration makes will benefit this country, its people and the world. The repercussions of the vote yesterday will be felt long after today, long after 4 years from now, long after those of us who made the decision are alive.  We had a tremendous responsibility to future generations when we filled in that circle on our ballot, one that is even more meaningful to me now that I am raising that next generation.  The decision has been made and we and they will have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives.  A few of my friends are elated.  Me?  I'm terrified.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Family photos

I realize unless you share DNA with me, you probably aren't interested in this big post of pictures.  And maybe you aren't interested even if you do share DNA with me and are just too nice to say so!

But I have to take the opportunity to show off my beautiful babies from our photo shoot this summer.

This photo shoot was an absolute nightmare.  I got back in the car after the hour of photos and was wiped out.  I felt like I'd been at war.  The kids were completely non-cooperative.  Barrett, our little attention seeker, refused to smile, refused to sit still, refused to put his arm around Audrey.  Audrey was also unwilling to smile.  And when I held her, she would only chew on my necklace, so that I had to take it off or give her to Tim to hold.  It was exhausting and I felt like I'd run a marathon by the end of it.

Despite all the work and frustration, I am very happy to have these photos of my beautiful children.  I look at them, with their big blue eyes, silly laughs and smiles, determined (sometimes obstinate) little personalities and I am so thankful I've been blessed to have them.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goodbye high heels, Hello highchairs

Last May, my company announced its plans to relocate to Atlanta.  I wrote then about my dilemma and that I was struggling with what to do.  I've worked at my company for 6 years.  I have worked incredibly hard, been promoted several times and think I've earned a fair amount of respect.  I report directly to the CFO and have a nice office and parking space, and enjoy the people I work with a lot.  Although it hasn't been without its stresses and long days and weekends, it's been a really good place for me to work the last six years. 

So when the move was announced, I was thrown.  Tim and I spent over a year in this strange limbo, where we weren't sure what to do.  We wanted more space but didn't want to do anything more with the house until we knew what our plans were.

There were a lot of advantages to moving to Atlanta for us:  bigger home, warmer weather, leaving Illinois and being able to get out of the declined market value on our home, staying with my job and the security it offered, and a financial bonus to move.

But there were a lot of disadvantages too:  we'd be further from family, Tim would have to find a new job, the location of my new office wouldn't be near the probable location of Tim's new office and trying to find a good location between the two would be difficult.  Plus, being a two-career family was starting to wear on us.

We kept wavering back and forth in our decision, with each of us gung-ho on moving at one point while the other was unsure and vice versa.  But my decision was ultimately made in July/August, when the stresses at work reached their maximum levels.

We decided that moving for my job is not in the cards right now.

This means I will be job-less in June. And I'm going to take the opportunity to stay home with the kids for a while.

This is a scary prospect for me.   I started babysitting at age 11.  I started my first job on my 16th birthday, the very first day I was eligible.  Work has always been a huge definer of who I am.  I worked very hard to get where I am in my career, made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am, and I know that if I stayed with my company, I'd continue to have a lot of success in my career. 

But at what cost?

I really struggle with how little time I'm spending with my children. The time we do have is very meaningful and their mom is still the most important person in their lives.  But I still crave more.  So after my job ends, I'm going to take a little bit of time off and decide where to go from there.  It will be a good opportunity to "try out" being a stay-at-home-mom and decide if it's something I want to do full-time.  If it's not for me, then back to the office I go and I'll find another job.  If it is for me, then we'll make some changes in our lifestyle and our finances and do our best to make it happen for the longer term.

I know it'll be a huge change.  No more high heels, daily routine, quickly running errands on my lunch hour, adult conversations.  Now it'll be the never ending stream of preparing meals, cleaning the house, cleaning up faces, wiping noses, time outs, mediating fights.  But hopefully those mundane tasks will be broken up by lots of hugs, laughs, cuddles, tickles, songs, books and kisses.

I am incredibly nervous about this "new life" I'll be taking on but oh so excited too!
THIS is how I'd rather spend my days!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Big Fat Fall Post

Fall used to be my favorite season.  And then the realization hit me that fall is too quickly proceeded by Winter, which (living in the arctic circle as I do) is my least favorite season.  So now I greet fall with the happiness that wearing boots and scarves, drinking apple cider and eating pumpkin spice hershey kisses brings, but with the apprehension of knowing that cold and dark and ice is coming soon.

Our fall so far:

Labor Day
Does Labor Day count as Fall?  I'm going to count it because a) it's the unofficial end of summer holiday and b) I haven't posted our pictures yet so this is as good a post as any to throw them in, right?  Although it definitely didn't feel like Fall because it was hot, hot, hot!

Per our usual routine, we went to our local town's Labor Day celebration.  They have a great kids area, with a dozen bouncy houses and activities for the entire family.  I had to work Saturday and Sunday but took Monday off and spent a much needed day with the family.
Last year we watched the pony rides but this year, we hoisted Barrett up onto the pony for his first ride. Without hesitation, he held on, even pushing Tim away at one point so he could do it himself.  Such a big boy. 

Little boy with hot pink cheeks.  It was so hot, especially after jumping your heart out in a few bouncy houses. 
 Little Audrey slept most of the time. It was very hot holding her, but she slept great. 

Apple Picking

We made our annual trek to a pick-your-own apple orchard and had a blast.  This was our 4th time going here and it's funny to think that the first we were childless (and carefree. and wrinkle free. and bags-under-the-eyes free), the second I was wearing Barrett, last year I was pregnant with Audrey and this time I'm wearing her.  Pardon me while I get all weepy about how fast time is flying.

Okay, I'm back.

So we had a gorgeous September day to hit the apple orchard.   I was a little nervous about going because this place gets crowded and due to the early spring followed by a freeze and the super dry summer, the trees struggled this year.  But I think we got there early enough in the season and in the day that the trees still had some apples. 

Before we made our way to the orchards, we had to stop for a gratuitous photo op with the two cutest pumpkins in the patch.

(Please disregard Barrett's sock & sandal combination.  He's a two year old boy with strong opinions on footwear.) 

Showing off his picks

After the apple-picking, we went inside for some apple cider and apple cider doughnuts.

The orchard had other kids activities and so we boarded Barrett onto the Apple Train.  I'm not sure how he felt about it, since he was alone, but he hung in there without complaint.  Maybe next year he'll enjoy it more.

I have a new little helper in the kitchen these days.  Barrett loves helping me out.
So far this fall, we made some delicious seasonal recipes.

One was this Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage.   I make it once each fall and we gobble it up.  It's not necessarily my favorite meal to prepare, but it tastes really good to eat so is worth it.

Another fall recipe I die over is Pumpkin Pancakes.   I could eat these every day.  I like to spread butter and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and forgo syrup.  But is there really a bad way to eat pumpkin pancakes?  The kids devoured these (I think Barrett may have had three) so I definitely need to make these again before the end of fall.
photo from
But our favorite recipe this year just may be these Pumpkin Spice Cookies.

They are made with Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses.  If there was any way of making these bite-sized pieces of heaven even better, it's to add them to the top of a spice cookie.

I think Barrett agrees
Smelling the deliciousness

waiting patiently until I give him the green light

 He was definitely my little helper on this endeavor, which we did on Columbus Day while Audrey napped.  He loves to smell all the ingredients, pour them into the bowl, and stir.  Evidence of his stirring is seen in flour dusting on his chin in the photos.  He kneels on the stool next to me on the island and waits for his turn to "help."

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
(I can't remember where I got this recipe)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2-3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 package Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap Hershey Kisses and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.
3.  Add vanilla and eggs and beat until light and fluffy.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Gradually add to butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
6. Place rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on a parchment lined or sprayed cookie sheet.
7. Bake 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a Hershey Kiss into the center of the cookie. Move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Run, don't walk, to the kitchen to make these.  They are awesome.  Seriously.  I have a few uncooked in my freezer and it's taken all my willpower to not eat them all immediately.