Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nothing Says Love Like Sharing Cheerios with Elmo

I have the day off of work today and have spent the entire day watching Anna play, explore and try (successfully) to make me laugh.

After breakfast this morning, she wanted some cheerios after she finished her breakfast. Not wanting to miss more playtime to eat in the high chair, I put some cheerios in a bowl for her and let her bring them in the living room, where it looks as though Toys R Us exploded all over the room...some day it will look like adults live here again...anyway, I digress...

Anna brought her cheerios into the living room and was playing. I started trying (in vain) to clean up some of the mess and when I turned around I was greeted with the sight of Anna force-feeding her Elmo doll cheerios on the floor.

When she figured Elmo had had his fill, probably because his little muppet mouth couldn't hold anymore cheerios, she started sharing with her blow-up lion punching bag. When she tired of this, she began just pouring them directly from the bowl into her mouth.

This child...What a super-sass. But hey, at least she's learning to share with her friends, right??

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas, Mama!

Anna and I left Wednesday night for my mom's house in Illinois - in the middle of the biggest storm we've had so far this year. We made it safely, but not before seeing 12 cars in the ditch (some of them heading there right in front of us!) and nearly doubling the amount of time it usually takes to head to Grandma's. But we made it and my lovely sister had an appropriately large glass of white wine waiting for me upon arrival. Much fun was had after the munchkin went to bed, catching up with my sister, making fun of my mom (kindly, of course!) and just relaxing after a nerve-shattering drive and busy work week.

We spent Christmas Eve in Illinois, running errands, eating an unhealthy amount of food and in general, having a great time. Hubby and my brother joined us on Thursday evening in time for church and then we ate some more and watched the "Anna: Rare and Uncut" DVD that Hubby made for the grandparents as a Christmas gift (video clips from telling his family that we were expecting up to just a week or two ago - so fun/sad to watch, I can't believe how fast she's turned from a newborn into a little person). I made the comment a few times on Christmas Eve that I wish I had known what cool people my brother and sister were (or were going to become - no offense, Mike, but you were kind of a punk as a kid :), but to be fair, I was a moody brat too) when we all lived under one roof.

And then, as if she knew it were just the right time, Anna looked me in the eye and called me MAMA! Yes! It's true! I am no longer daddy! I now have my very own identity as "Mama!" I can't even tell you how excited I am about this. Even though she's mostly just been whining Mama at me (might as well get used to it, right?), my heart just melts every time she says it. Best. Present. Ever. Followed closely by the diamond necklace Hubby gave me. I felt awfully spoiled by the time our Christmas was finished!

I think Anna got more of a kick out of prying the lid off of a tin from my cousin than from actually opening presents, but she still chanted "Wow!!" over and over while shredding wrapping paper. She got a pair of Pink Bunny Slippers from Grandma Hootie that she has refused to take off since we put them on her feet (never mind that they are two sizes too big and make her look slightly like she has clown shoes on...) and a little table and chair set that I hope to have put together tonight or tomorrow for her play area in the basement.

Around 10, Anna had had enough and was screaming (literally) for a nap. We packed up all our goodies and headed back to Milwaukee to Hubby's family for Christmas day celebrations! I have really fun in-laws (and I'm not just saying that because I know my mother-in-law reads this blog!). Hubby has 3 sisters and a little brother and getting together with their side of the family is always really fun! Even after sleep for an hour and a half on the way back to Milwaukee, Anna stayed awake only long enough to open a couple of presents and then went down for a 3 hour nap. I was bummed because I actually had more fun when she was awake to play with her new toys and open her presents, but she made up for it when she (finally!) woke up! She got the rocking horse that Hubby got when he was this exact age and she loves it! She keeps walking up to it in our living room and petting its head. And she knew right away how to rock on it - Yes, I know, my child is a GENIUS!

We had the extended family Christmas gathering on Saturday. Unfortunately at that point, Anna (and I, if we're being honest) were just Christmas-ed out. She spent most of the evening there rubbing her tired eyes and fussing (and, since we're being honest, so did I). Just too much crammed into one weekend.

Sunday was spent just Anna and me laying low. We played for hours with her new toys - blocks and play kitchen, and a little wooden school bus with removable people that prove far too irresistible and must be put immediately into Anna's mouth (and if we're being honest, my mouth too - what? I said they were irresistible!), and a great tent and canvas tube which Anna immediately moved her blanket, teddy bear and pacifier into, and then kept pushing me out of. What is this? No grownups allowed already?? We shared a pizza (which she ate like a barbarian, doing her best to eat only the cheese, sauce and toppings with the slice plastered against her entire face) and then watched (about 10 minutes of) Finding Nemo. Anna stood 3 inches away from the TV screen chanting "Fishy, Fishy, Fishy, Fishy" the entire time. I didn't even know she knew that word.

As usual as I dropped her off at daycare this morning, I felt that stab of regret at not only the weekend being over and done with, but that she and I had to part ways for the day. But then she squished her face up against the front window to wave goodbye to me. A mental picture that is still making me laugh. Such a goofball, that girl. Can't wait for our next long weekend together!

Christmas Letter to Anna

I wrote this a while back but wanted to post a copy here. I really enjoy the interaction this blog allows me to have with other parents but am also looking at it as a sort of baby book for Anna (since I'm too busy/lazy to do much writing in her actual baby book!). Anyway, something special my mom did for us kids growing up was writing us special letters at different times. Sometimes that was Christmastime, or graduation, birthdays, etc. But I have saved many of those letters and read them once in a while. It reminds me that I was and am loved and I want Anna to share that feeling as she grows up. So here is my first letter to her:

Dear Banana,

Your daddy and I spent hours last night after you went to bed watching videos of you when you were just a few weeks old. I found myself tearing up over how much you've grown in such little time. It's so hard to believe that the little bundle on the TV screen is YOU!

You are a constant source of amazement and joy to me and your dad. I would be content most days just to sit and watch you explore your world. You're always so proud when you discover something new - showing it to each one of us, marveling at your new abilities. This morning you looked at me from the kitchen while I was drying my hair in the hallway and pulled up your shirt to show me your plump little belly and belly button. Then you toddled over and pointed to my bellybutton and said "Beddy" so clearly. A year ago at this time, you couldn't even sit up yet, and now you're SAYING things to me!

I love how much each day with you changes. You are learning at an unbelievable pace. You understand so much and are such a little performer, that your daddy and I just want to spend every waking moment with you. I can't begin to tell you how much I love you.

Here are my hopes for you on future Christmases:

*I hope you are able to distinguish between the magic of Santa and the MIRACLE of the birth of Christ. Both are exciting in their own way, but only one is real and true. There is Christmas magic in the world, flying reindeer or not.

*I hope you know as you grow up just how much you are loved. Not just by me and daddy, but by countless others who would do anything for you. You are a little charmer and have managed to wrap an awful lot of people around those chubby little fingers of yours. I hope you can feel this love and learn to love BIG as a result of it.

*I hope you keep your curiosity. This world is full of fun and interesting things and I hope you continue to love finding out what each of those things are.

*I hope you cultivate big dreams for yourself. You are persistent (nice way of saying stubborn!) and smart, and have already managed to conquer many toddler-sized obstacles. I can't wait to see what you do in the real world!

I love you very much, sweet girl. And I look forward to celebrating many, many more Christmases with you!

With all my heart,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Great Cookbook Giveaway!

Since having a baby, I've suddenly found myself more inclined to cook family meals each night, keep the kitchen clean and hunt like crazy for deals at the grocery store (also part of staying on our budget!). One site that has helped keep me focused on preparing healthy meals for a low price is $5 Dinners. Erin posts daily recipes she makes for her family for less than $5 per meal, and I can tell you from trying many of these recipes myself - they're GREAT!

She just had a cookbook published and is doing a HUGE giveaway over at her site. Even if you don't win the cookbook, peruse the site. You'd be surprised at the inspiration you find there!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bedtime Routine

I've worked hard to establish a bedtime routine with Anna. This routine consists of giving daddy kisses good night and saying I love you, chasing each other into her bedroom and then selecting 4 or 5 books off the shelf together (most of which will be met with "NAHNAHNAH!!" in mere seconds - she's as quick to make up her mind as she is to change it!). We snuggle together in her rocking chair, reading and pointing out animals and things she knows and after we've read 3 or 4 stories, depending on how tired she is that night, I ask if I can have a "Kiss for Sweet Dreams" - a line from one of our books. And then she helps me sing "Anna's Good Night Song" sung to the tune of "Good Night, Ladies."

Good night, Anna
Good night, Anna
Good night, Anna
It's time to go to sleep

Mommy loves you, Anna
Daddy loves you, Anna
Jesus loves you, Anna
It's time to go to sleep

Most nights she willingly lays down in her bed, grabs her pacifier and musical seahorse and goes to sleep. Some nights (like tonight), she throws a tantrum. But that's how we handle bedtime.

Hubby teases me because when he's in charge, all he has to do is take her in the bedroom, put her in bed and close the door. He jokes that I only have to go through the bedtime routine because that's the standard I've set. But I remember my bedtime routine from when I was little - both my parents read to me all the time when I was small. And I want these things to stand out for her too. So if that means I have to take 20 extra minutes of my night to read a few stories (the SAME stories, OVER and OVER) and sing a song (which she now tries to sing along with), then so be it. It's one of my favorite parts of my day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Working Mom Woes

I'm going to give myself a second to wallow because in spite of my best efforts over the past few days, I've been unable to shake myself loose from my constant regret over not being able to stay home with Anna.

Since I was a punk two year old, pretend-nursing my stuffed Ernie doll, I've wanted to be a stay at home mom. I've never had strong career aspirations. Don't get me wrong, most of the jobs I've had (and currently do have), I've loved. But love of my job comes no where near to the love of my daughter and my desire to be the one raising her.

I've always thought it was pointless to have children if you weren't even going to be raising them yourself. Why have a kid just to dump him or her off on someone else for 50 hours a week? I'm DEFINITELY lucky and have the second best person to myself to be raising my child. But I am painfully aware of how much of my daughter's life I'm missing by being merely her part-time caregiver.

Alas, there's nothing I can do about it because we need my paycheck. I'm trying to stay focused on the fact that I get weekends with her because during the week I get less than an hour a day. Tonight she was so tired when she got home from daycare that she ate dinner and was in bed by 6:45. She didn't even get home until 6:10. Understand why I'm crying crying over my laptop at 7:30 on a Wednesday?

UGH, as much as I want a second baby, there is NO WAY that is happening until we have the money for me to stay home. I'm not going through this again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Anna-Vinci Code

Robert Langdon's got noting on me. Symbologist? Bah! Toddler-ologist, am I!
Decoding babies is my game. (Please forgive me, Dan Brown. I actually quite enjoy your books.)

For example, within the last couple of weeks we've figured out that Hubby is "Dad-Daddy" and I'm just plain "Daddy" (unless I have food or we're in church, please don't ask me why that's the case).

"Cooka" is cookie and will be requested at all hours of the day, in the same tone of voice, regardless of my reaction.

If Anna doesn't know what sound a particular animal makes, she resorts to "Boo." This has yet to be the correct response to anything.

When Anna starts digging in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, it means she is ready to go to sleep. I'm not kidding.

Frequently she starts getting naughty when she's tired. I know it's time for a nap when she starts chanting "nah nah, nah nah" as she's doing something she KNOWS she's not supposed to do (pushing the cat off the couch, trying to climb down the basement stairs, pulling the dishwasher soap out from under the sink and carrying it around, the list goes on and gets drastically more destructive).

All done...oh dear, Lord, all done. She shouts this day and night, at varying volumes, mostly loud. She does not always mean that she's all done eating as this phrase is usually followed by her stuffing a pile of food into her mouth.

If you cough, she'll cough back. I think she thinks it's just good manners to answer when spoken why not cough when coughed to?

Yes, my life is a lot like a Dan Brown novel, except, you know, without the imminent danger, conspiracies, or symbology. So, not really at all like a Dan Brown novel...But does it count that Anna frequently demonstrates behaviors of Angels and Demons? No? Shoot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Adventures in Sewing

I recently "borrowed" (long-term with no defined return date) my mom's sewing machine. After several hours of battling with an obstinate bobbin and my own complete inability to do ANYTHING in a straight line (especially sew!), I have started giving myself a few simple projects to get accustomed to using the machine.

I first finished a set of curtains for the recently created play area in our basement (worthy of its own post, but if I forget, please remind me. I'm quite proud of it!) and then set about FINALLY sewing together the pieces of fabric I cut out months ago to make Anna a pair of soft shoes. If you are interested, this is the pattern I used.

It went so well that I decided to make a pair for a friend of mine who is expecting a baby not too long from now. They're not perfect, but they stay on much better than socks. I used denim for the soles, but they would be perfect with leather as well. I'm quite excited and am busy brainstorming my next sewing machine project. Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reason for the Season

If you're like me, you've heard the Christmas story told a million times and can probably even quote the verse from Luke "Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people..." But as I was addressing holiday (yes, we have to say holiday because there are many Hindu people at my office) cards and listening to Christmas music yesterday, I started really thinking about the birth of Christ and how truly AMAZING that time must have been.

#1. If you've been 9 months pregnant, or have known a woman who was 9 months pregnant, you know walking more than a few steps at that point is tiring. Everything is tiring when you're THAT pregnant. Can you imagine riding through the desert on a donkey for DAYS? All that bouncing at that stage, I would have needed an adult diaper. Plus add in the back pain and swollen ankles of late pregnancy and I feel for Mary.

#2. Christchild or not, labor and delivery is painful. Not only did she have no pain meds, she had no bed, no clean environment, and was forced to go through that ordeal in a barn. A barn! Compare that to the fancy birthing centers nowadays. And then once her baby was here, she had no bed to put him in. She had to put him in a manger. Do you know what a manger is? It's a trough. To feed animals. How humbling it must have been to just have to make due with what she and Joseph had available to them.

#3. Angels - the ULTIMATE birth announcement. Really can't compare to those cute little postcards or emails we send out now. Imagine people rejoicing in the fields at the mere news of the birth of your baby. Imagine the heavens opening up and choirs of angels proclaiming "GLORIA". Imagine people dropping what they were doing and traveling, possibly many miles, just to SEE your child. That's pretty intense.

#4. Have you seen a newborn? Ever? Small, helpless, sweet little bundles of new life. That's who Mary was holding. And that little bundle was GOD'S SON. That is amazing to me. God-made-man, came to earth as a baby. A baby who couldn't lift his own head, who couldn't speak, who couldn't do anything for himself at all. Which brings me to my final point...

#5. God sent his ONLY beloved son to earth to die for all of us. If you are a mother or a father, I expect this will hit you particularly hard. I can't even think about losing Anna, it physically hurts me. Can you imagine putting your baby in a situation where you KNOW he or she is going to die? Even if it is for the good of others, I cannot fathom the selflessness of this act.

Funny how now that I have a child old enough to start enjoying Christmas, Santa Claus is not even on my mind a little this year. I hope I can convey the awesome miracle of Christ's birth to Anna when she's old enough to understand, because that is a great reason to celebrate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Anniversary of Sorts

I'm getting really emotional today (shocker!).  I absolutely love this time of year.  Not just because of the holidays and the snow and the sense of goodwill that seems to be especially strong among everyone about now, but because this was when I found out I was pregnant.  Which (if you've ready any of the last few entries) you know, was a defining moment in my life.  It was exactly two years ago today that my coworker Kristie told me at lunch, "You're pregnant. Go home and take a test." She knew me better than anyone in the office, but how on earth did she know that?  All I told her was that my chest was killing me and I must have some monster PMS going on.  She didn't even know we were trying.  Well, not trying, just not NOT trying.  Anyway, that's beside the point.

I spent some time writing about that exciting time in my life and here is an (slightly exaggerated - poor hubby wasn't quite this panicked, but he was no cool cucumber either!) excerpt of the recounting of this exact day, two years ago.

This is not nearly as romantic as they make it out to be in the movies.  Taking a pregnancy test.  Peeing on a stick.  That's all you're doing.  And believe me, girls CAN'T aim.  How am I supposed to know if I've got this positioned correctly?  What a mess.

I carefully put the white stick on top of the box that it originally came out of.  That's the other thing.  After you pee all over this little plastic beast, where exactly are you supposed to set it to wait for the magic to happen?  I opted for the box because I really don't want to have to clean the bathroom sink again this week. 

I wash my hands slowly, figuring a little extra soap will make up for the my ungraceful test taking ability.  Can I wash my hands for 3 minutes?  Apparently not, since my cell phone alarm still hasn't gone off and I'm already finished drying my them on the towel next to the sink.  Couldn't hurt to take a sneak peek at the test, right? 

Oh holy crap.  Holy crap.  That's a second line.  That line was NOT there before.  For sure.  That's definitely a second line!!  Oh my God, I'm pregnant.  I'm pregnant! 

I'm pregnant??  Now what the hell do I do?  They don't tell you about this part...take a test, eat healthy, have a baby.  They tell you that, but nobody tells you exactly what to do in the precise moment following the biggest news of your life. 

I'll wing it.  I grab the little white stick that has just confirmed what I've been hoping for forever is true and with shaking hands, open the bathroom door. 

Hubby is watching TV on the couch in the living room.  Poor, unsuspecting Andy.  He just thought I really had to use the bathroom after my long commute home, when I dropped all my belongings, coat and shoes in the hallway just inside the front door and made a beeline for the bathroom.  Nope.  I'm about to set his world on its ear and he's wrapped up in an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

"Hey, Hubs?" My voice is shaking like it does when I speak in public.  What is wrong with me?  You wanted this!  You BOTH wanted this! Now buck up and tell him he's about to be a daddy.

"Hello?  Can you turn that off for a second?"  He grabs the remote, pauses his show and looks at me.  I hold up the test that I brought with me from the bathroom.  "I'm, um, I mean, we're pregnant."

Hubby stares blankly at me for a second before blurting out "Did you pee on that?" sounding disgusted. I look down at my hand. 

"Yeah?"  I say, more of a question than an answer to his question.

"Gross.  Go wash your hands."

Huh.  That is not how I pictured that going at all.  I head back to the bathroom, put the test back on top of the box and wash my hands again.

After washing my hands and heading back to face Hubby again, I was instructed to do the following:

1. Take another test.  There was no way a home pregnancy test could be must have been a false positive.  The second one proved positive just as quickly as the first.  I was EXTREMELY pregnant, apparently.

2. Tell no one.  He didn't believe that home pregnancy tests were reliable enough to prove that we were truly pregnant.  We had to confirm with a doctor before he wanted this news going farther than the two of us. Sure.  No problem, hon.  You have fun at hockey practice tonight.  I will just sit my little pregnant self down on the couch, watch some TV, and NOT tell a soul the biggest, most life altering news that I just received. 

I hear his car pull away from the garage downstairs and run for my phone as soon am I was certain he won't come back up and catch me in the act.

"Hey, Mom," I say as nonchalantly as possible. "How was your day?"  An evening phone call from me is nothing unusual.  I call my mom at least once a day just to chat. Just in the middle of her description of that morning's Bible study class, I quietly say, "I'm pregnant."

She keeps talking for a second.  I can actually hear the moment that the news registers with her though.  She goes silent.  "Wait...WHAT?! WHAT????  You're pregnant?  Oh!" followed by much squealing and little sniffles.  This is what I wanted.  Someone to celebrate with me!  Someone to understand how exciting this second pink line on that little plastic  truly is.  Not to be told to wash my hands.

I tell my mom about Hubby's reaction.  She points out what I know deep down is the truth: That he is probably being both cautious and scared by this news.  It's one thing to say "let's try for a baby" and it's another thing to say "we're having a baby."  Don't worry, he's just as excited as you are, she assures me.

She's right.  The next day as we're getting ready for work, Hubby sneaks up behind me and gives me a long hug.  "Call me after you talk to the doctor today," he says, smiling.  And I can tell by his smile that he's excited to find out when our twosome will become a threesome.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Traditions

I am quickly getting into the holiday spirit - listening to classic Christmas tunes by Gene Autry, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby on Pandora; admiring all my neighbor's and Downtown Milwaukee's amazing holiday lights displays; debating whether or not I want to put up a Christmas tree that will automatically be a shameless hussy, gracing my living room with her bare nether-regions exposed (due, of course to my toddler's propensity for throwing any and everything down the laundry chute); excitedly peering out my bedroom window every morning to see if it's snowed yet. It's exciting!

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve the holidays and the great traditions that my parents established for us. The family trip to the Christmas Tree farm (complete with hayride and hot chocolate and sesame sticks in the warming house, of course!) is one tradition I KNOW we are carrying forward for Anna. But I've been thinking a lot lately about what other traditions I'd like to establish for her and our family. So I'm turning to you for ideas!

Send me your favorite holiday traditions. Traditions that you either followed as a kid growing up, or invented when you set out on your own. I want to hear them all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baking Baby, Er, Banana Bread

I got sick over Thanksgiving weekend. Not the point of this post, but a necessary bit of info so that I don't sound like a total slouch who was hanging out in bed at noon on a Sunday while my poor helpless daughter had to dig cheerios out from under the couch for her breakfast. Of course she DID dig cheerios out from under the couch for her breakfast, but it was by choice. So I only suck a little bit as a parent.

Anyway, I was laying in bed and I heard what sounded suspiciously like Anna banging a metal spoon against something glass - hopefully not the window - I thought to myself as I rolled over, trying to sleep for just 1 more minute while I decided whether or not to investigate/stop whatever was going on beyond my bedroom door. Then I heard Hubby "keep it in the bowl! Good smashing! Boom Boom Boom" At which point he was joined by a little voice chanting along "boom boom boom." Oh good grief, I HAVE to know what the heck is going on in there.

As I walk in, Anna proudly looks up from the mixing bowl in the center of the kitchen floor. One hand clutching a slightly slimy and soggy Graham Cracker (or "COOKIE" if you ask her) and the other holding a potato masher. Hubby was squatting on the floor next to her, attempting (in vain) to keep at least some of the squashed banana batter in the mixing bowl. Anna's shoes and about a 2-foot radius of the floor around the bowl were sloshed with bits of squashed bananas and batter.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Her usual, INCORRECT, greeting that makes me feel great even though I am "Mama," so very proud of her mess and her special time with daddy. How on earth is she so grown up already??

All weekend she walked around saying "Whoa!" and "Zis is coowhoa" (This is cool) and "Uh-uh!" She truly is a little person with a HUGE personality and I'm loving every second of watching that develop. I promised more pictures and I will post a few tonight that I snapped of the banana bread making. Also, here's the video Hubby took of the event:

What a great four day weekend...made me wish, REALLY REALLY wish that I was home with her always. But then hearing that this morning upon arriving at daycare that Anna yelled "HIIII!!!" to all her friends and then did her crazy dance that she does when she's really happy and excited, I know she'd be sad to miss out on the time with her friends every day.