Sentimental Saturday: What 2011 has meant to me

Where do I even start? I usually use Saturdays for my most relaxed, thoughtless posts, but not today.

So, I am a bit of a whimpering drama queen when it comes to the end of things. Observe...
  • I used to cry after my birthdays, almost as soon as everyone left. Eventually, my parents had me see our school guidance counselor at about age 10 to talk about this. She ended up telling me that she used to sprinkle baking powder on her "bust" (I had no idea what this was) to make them grow. I was scarred for life.
  • Christmas, same thing. December 26th is usually my least favorite day of the year, and I have found a (probably unhealthy) way to get through it-- after Christmas sales. 
  • High school graduation was another event marked with an emotional breakdown.
  • I was fortunate to not have to deal with post-partum depression, but definitely missed all the anticipation and excitement that comes with pregnancy.
Anyway, you can see that I don't exactly look forward to the end of things. But this year is different. It is not all about me anymore. Every day that passes is stamped with milestones and amazing moments my daughter provides. Yesterday (Wednesday), she tried a graham cracker. She almost pulled herself up. This was big news for us. Me? I didn't even get dressed. When you focus on something other than yourself, you find that you look forward to the next day and what it will bring. I am not worried about 2011 being gone, but you bet I am already planning her first birthday (with my BFF, Pinterest). And when that is over, I'll have something else fun to do with her. See what I've learned? Every day should be celebrated and lived. Not living as in "I rock climb and run marathons", but living is the collection of tiny events that you can choose to ignore as "going through the motions" or see as special. Same with people and the people with whom I surround myself. It is SO easy to be cynical or impatient, it takes work to be kind. I have a responsibility to show Larkyn how to be kind and patient toward others and to choose people who will illustrate that same quality for her.

Taking pictures and recording these moments and these people has been therapeutic. So, goodbye 2011. You were good to me!

Birthday Thursday: Happy 36 weeks!

What a week. Since Christmas, Larkyn has learned to do so many new things! While I have been catching up on chores around the house, she crawls into the kitchen (used to be a much smaller distance that she'd travel) and she is into everything. Including dog food. Luckily, she's not putting things in her mouth yet, but I'm sure that is coming.

You know I have been a faithful Brezza user, but it is time to move onto chunkier textures and "real people" food. I will still make most of her food, but have started adding cheese and graham crackers, which she loves!

But the biggest news?
It was miraculous that I had my phone in my hand (well that is not miraculous), but I was happy that I caught it on camera.

The weekly photos are getting torturous, so I am going to have to find a new method. She wants nothing to do with laying on her back or sitting up without something in her hand.

She's really into rattles right now!
I tried to get her to do it again for a picture, but we all know how that goes.

Mama Monday: Her first Christmas

If I wrote a narrative about our first Christmas as a family, you would be bored to tears. So let's do a list, shall we?

Top 10 Best things about having Larkyn for Christmas:
She is so fun to dress up, especially for Christmas Eve at Grandma's. She tried all kinds of delicious appetizers that night!

Her little (BIG?) personality is starting to come out. Silly faces, whispering "ta ta ta" to make us laugh, scrunching her eyes closed and banging her hand as she yells when she is mad, and cuddling up to fall asleep anywhere...

She had no idea what was going on behind her or what was about to happen. She was just enjoying herself and was along for the ride this year!

She carefully examined all her toys, which I appreciated. All the way down to the tiniest toys in the stocking (my favorite part!), she looked over them carefully.
She always sees things we don't see; again, that attention to detail. Thanks for turning the rug over and finding that speck. Nevermind all those toys you just received:o)
She gave me more moments like this. I love daddy-daughter moments, and in the middle of chaos, they still can take time out to enjoy each other.
She looked forward to whatever I was about to feed her for Christmas breakfast (mangoes and pears, her favorite!) My dad used to get so mad when I would want to open presents before breakfast.
She didn't cry when her grandparents held her! In the past few months, she has let out a few whimpers (and a few full-out cries) when we have handed her off, but she was just fine with Paw Paw on Christmas.
She showed us she can hold her own!  Cousin Jax really wanted her bink, but she dodged him a few times. She later made him cry several times by taking his (really hers) ball. That, we will have to address one day...
Even as I was cleaning up 12 hours later, she was still going strong, "helping" me by driving the box.
I know, this is #11. But, I couldn't help a cliche. This year I had such a hard time thinking of what I wanted. Maybe this is why? I have everything I want.

Foodie Friday: Addictive snacks

So, I am a sucker for the samples given in my fabulous Market District. I just can't turn them down when it is something I actually like, on sale, and the person took the time to hand it to me in a paper cup and comment on how adorable my daughter is. Anyway, here are 2 of my new favorites:
Oogie's popcorn is all natural and full of flavor! I am not a big popcorn fan unless it has some crazy flavor, but usually that costs much more than $2.50. I have been eating it by the handful and am always satisfied for a while after snacking on it. The flavors are interesting, and you can see the full product line here. Yum.

The pretzel display seemed to have a beam of sunlight shining down and angels singing when I saw it. First of all, these Pretzel crisps in any flavor are delicious, but dark chocolate peppermint!?  I eat them like I imagine a jackal eats...whatever a jackal eats...looking over my shoulder and daring anyone to steal them. Luckily, Matt isn't a chocolate peppermint fan, so yippee!  I've had the Garlic Parmesan too, and check out their other flavors, too.

Pick them up for your snack stash or give them in a food basket for a last minute gift. Next week I will give the run-down on my Christmas day waffle bar!

Birthday Thursday: Happy 35 weeks!

Not much new to report around here! Larkyn is a crawling machine and wiggles her bootie to get started. It's pretty funny. She is interested in things that make noise with her movement, if that makes rattles, tambourines, pianos, etc. Button-pushing is old news to her....she's over it. The swing has been retired and the exersaucer and doorway bouncer are seeing their last days with this busy lady. She is experimenting with new foods like blueberries, Cheerios, and watermelon (do NOT mix it with peas--what was I thinking?) We have so many Christmas outfits (some new, some secondhand, don't worry) that I have to start using them today to get through them all. Observe:

She still has her cute wrist and knuckle wrinkles. And she really wants those ornaments!

Style Saturday: Dressing a gift card

Some people hate gift cards. I love them.  I think they have made gift-giving more efficient and more sensible...sorry if that offends you. There is nothing I love more than to receive a thoughtful gift (like this I got from Julie today...the product of a blog we follow), but I am sooooo bad at giving the thoughtful gifts. Jill made me Skittles in a Mothers Day can and I treasured each one because she made it. But me? I am terrible at thinking of the "perfect gift" for people. So gift cards are the perfect match for me. However, I am a firm believer that presentation is everything.

And this? Doesn't cut it.

I got a gift card for each of my teaching partners, 2 cards for my babysitter, and 4 for my parents. Then I looked down in my Giant Eagle basket and was a little depressed. Since I could easily spend an entire day inside my dear Marketplace, I decided to look around and get some inspiration. I also remembered this post and wondered if I could kill 2 birds with one stone (stone= Mastercard). Here is what I came up with in the following few hours....

One 8x8 page of scrapbook paper, cut in half, then folded for 4 pages and stapled.

Put into the gift basket that includes: Corn salsa, roasted almonds, Italian dressing, split pea soup mix, and kettle corn all made in Ohio. And, oh that? That is Larkyn's artwork made in my school art room with our awesome art teacher. It was more of a labor of love than Larkyn's birth...oh, so many tears to create this footprint Rudolph!

I glued the cards (gluestick on the top where there is no magnetic strip or anything important). Sorry for the blurriness, Instagram is no bueno for text.

The cards for my kindergarten posse are stuck to matching colored hot chocolates made in the USA, nestled with Columbus-made chocolate covered oreos and Lindt truffles (made in New Hampshire!) Unfortunately, I looked all over the store for American made mugs. China really likes mugs, apparently.

So, I dressed them up a bit and felt better about giving them to people. And, I spent a total of $25 on American products. I still didn't get to my goal of $64, but I wonder if the gift cards to Rooster's and PF Chang's count because they are keeping the restaurant staff in business?

And now, off to read my new book...

Birthday Thursday: Happy 8 months!

Wow, we have made it through 3/4 of a year! I am sure there is something I am supposed to be doing at 8 months, but I will have to check on that later. Right now, we are preoccupied with either containing this moving being or following close behind as she opens drawers and pulls out the dog toys (since the dogs would rather chew on trash, natch).

We got our Christmas cards and they are quite possibly my favorite things I have ever received in the mail. After I send them out, I will post a picture here so you can see them. Hopefully people don't mind baby butts hanging up on their fridges, because there is one due to arrive in their mailboxes in the next 7 or so days.

Anyway, 8 months? Larkyn is crawling, trying meats (they smell absolutely disgusting, but I mix them well with apples and yogurt and she doesn't seem to mind them at all!), and is fascinated by the TV remote. Santa is bringing her her own Sesame Street remote so that we don't lose our minds every time the TV switches from Chappelle Show to Telemundo. We are not promoting baby TV watching around here, but she has no idea that her favorite object happens to control the TV.

I can't believe she's bigger than Joy the owl!
Thought you'd enjoy this. See who is enjoying the Pack and Play?
Headed out for Chinese takeout on Saturday night. It was freezing that night!

Random Wednesday: "Made in America Christmas"

Ok, I have touched on this before. But, now is the perfect time, if you still have shopping to do, to make a difference. Here is the gist: "Remember, it doesn’t take a lot to have an impact. The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, the National Retail Federation estimates. If each American spent just $64 of that $700 on American made goods it would create 200,000 new jobs." (from Simply looking for a "Made in the USA" every time you pick up a product actually creates a job for REAL people. Check it out...

Watch me! You will be inspired!

I have to admit, I watched all of this a little too late and had already completed most of my shopping. I proceeded to turn over every product I had laid in front of me (shh, don't tell Larkyn!) and here is what I was horrified to find:
  • LOTS of clothes from Gymboree: Made in Vietnam
  • Fisher Price Baby Smartphone (I know, sassy girl): Made in China
  • LeapFrog Sit to Stand Walker: Made in China
  • Fisher Price Sesame Street remote: Made in China
  • Matt's presents (all of them, sorry...): Made in CHINA!!
  • Grandma's Loft sweater: Made in Sri Lanka
  • Fisher Price camera: Made in China
But WAIT! There was one stocking stuffer that redeemed my American heart. The Infantino Lil' Chef set of salt shaker and measuring cup rattles was in fact MADE IN AMERICA. See?

I immediately went to the Infantino website in hopes that I would see something like "All of our products are made with "heart" in America". Nope. So, what can I give you that is useful?  Here is a little research on actual products that you might buy that are made in America. Maybe we can make a few jobs together:o)

L.L. Bean, Tervis tumblers, Jelly Belly, Merle Norman cosmetics (seriously, the best foundation you will ever wear), True Religion jeans (I guess if I will spend that much on jeans, it might as well help someone?), Little Tykes, K'Nex, Slinky, Louisville Slugger...
Here is the humongous list where I got my ideas

Please comment and let me know what you have found! I am thinking Larkyn could use something from Little Tykes and maybe PawPaw could use some LL Bean Wicked Good Slippers!

Style Saturday: Christmas edition

I love decorating for Christmas! Last year, my favorite part was obsessing over the mantle. This year, we actually got a tree. Now, finding a place in our "charming" house (tiny) is a challenge, but so is finding a tree to fit! We found this perfect 6 footer at Target on sale for $20. I mean, its not fooling anyone that its a Vermont Fir or whatever fancy people get, but it doesn't have to. It is our first tree and I love it. So does Larkyn. So, let's take a look at some of my favorite Christmas images at our place. BUT FIRST! We went to see Santa today:

He tickled her to get this smile. Must remember this trick!
"Who is this guy?"  Alright I can't stop myself from venting about these pictures. Santa was great and she was precious but the pictures are horrible! I paid $30 for the digital rights package, only to come home and see that you get a little "website", which I don't need, and there you can PAY 9.99 per picture for digital rights to an over-exposed, under-defined picture. There. Sorry.

Her first ornament
Her first ornament from Auntie Ann (way better than mine)
Her first ornament from Nana (the first in a series and its an owl, how cool!)
Mr. Tree has exactly enough space to exist at our house, and nothing more.

Birthday Thursday: Happy 33 weeks!

Notice anything new in our living room? Stay with me...
I can't believe its been a week since I've posted. In those seven days, I have had parent teacher conferences, report card distribution, and an alien invade my child. OH YEAH, and I'm trying to run a household. It's not too bad, but I feel like I can finally justify using the word "busy".

This week, Larkyn started going through what we *hope* is a phase or teething. Let's just say unless she is crawling toward certain injury (see below), getting fed the exact instant she feels hunger, or being entertained, she is lettin' ya know about it. Whew....we are exhausted. She is all over the place and is trying to push up onto her feet (lots of down-dog in yoga lingo). Tonight I had to use the ugly flash after all the errands I needed to run, but check the strawberry get-up from our friend Heidi...
"You thought you were going to get away without a pack and play, didn't you?"
Matt calls this bink "The Joker"
And she's off! Don't worry, Nana was right behind her to keep her from doing any harm.

Birthday Thursday: Happy 32 weeks!

"She has her wheels!" as a friend put it today. Yes, Larkyn is officially on the move. And her main target? The Christmas tree! That is what got her crawling, and that is always where she is headed. She has gotten a taste of the cold Ohio weather (Oh, baby, this is just the beginning...) and that called for the snowman suit...

With the drooling, sudden crankiness at night, and batting the bottle away like its filled with killer bees, we think she might be teething on top now. I can't picture what she will look like with top teeth! That is when they go from baby-faced to big girl face and I am not ready for that yet. On Tuesday, I went to pick her up from Miss C's and she broke my heart (in a good way). She looked up and burst into a huge grin and crawled all the way to me to get up. She usually doesn't even look up to from the toys to notice me until I catch her attention.

The holidays are in full swing and we have said "we are done" shopping more than once already. Unfortunately, we keep thinking of things she actually needs AFTER we buy things like glowing seahorses and Baby's first baking set. Hmm. Well, here is our sweet thing, 32 weeks old.

TV Tuesday: A very Gaga Thanksgiving

I do love me some Gaga. Not in that paint my face and stand in a 4 day line for tickets, but I do love her music. And, contrary to popular belief, she is a savvy and smart woman. I have been impressed with her every time I have seen her speaking on TV, and it is almost never to promote herself. It is typically to speak on behalf of some organization or another (HIV/AIDS in young women, empowering GBLT youth). And TELL me you don't turn up the radio when you hear some "Alejandro" or "Bad Romance"! Anyway...

I was intrigued when I saw GMA promoting her Thanksgiving special, A very Gaga Thanksgiving. Here is a little taste:

Since Matt had to work late (seriously, people, stop buying furniture so we can have our daddy back!), Larkyn and I laid together and watched 90 minutes of wonderfulness. Yes, it calls for a word like that. I loved watching her flirt with Tony Bennett and make glittery crafts with the third grade girls of her alma mater, Sacred Heart. In between the interviews and snippets, we got to enjoy some of our favorite Gaga tunes and some holiday songs sung in a cozy, warm setting (Sacred Heart). The voice! Oh, her voice. My favorite part was seeing the sensitive side I have never seen. She spoke about her small, tight-knit family and I admired her fierce love for/protection of them. When it was over, I wanted more!

You may roll your eyes at the towering shoes or the arrival to the Grammys in an egg, but you can't deny that she is a creative spirit. I loved getting to know (as Katie Couric called it) her more traditional existence. If you can catch it on your TV on-demand, the big screen is really the way to go. Or snuggle up to your laptop and watch it here. Enjoy!

Foodie Friday: Simple pork and sauerkraut

I tried this recipe last year, Matt's mom making it for us on New Years. It was divine. I didn't really like sauerkraut until I had this, and you have just got to try it!

Simple Pork and Sauerkraut
from Elizabeth

1 center cut pork roast
1 bag or can of kraut, drained
1 white onion
2 cans of beef broth
mashed potatoes (we use Bob Evans frozen!)

Slice the onion (so it is long pieces, not diced) and brown until very
tender in a pan. Mix with kraut and one can of broth in a covered
roasting pan/dutch oven/whatever you have that is covered and deep.

Either have the meat counter cube the pork for you, or cube it at home
into appx 1 inch pieces. Brown, but don't cook the pork in a pan
(maybe you could just do this at the same time as the onions). Layer
the pork over the veggie mixture.

Bake at 375 for 2 hours, adding beef broth from the second can
occasionally to add moisture. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Birthday Thursday: Happy 31 weeks!

And happy Thanksgiving! Everything is all cleaned up and it is just the 3 of us, sitting around watching football. It was a great first Thanksgiving for Larkyn. She and cousin Jaxsen had a good old time with each other, and they each got to try some new foods! The verdict: the girl likes her some turkey (as long as it is hidden in squash, sweet potatoes, and applesauce).

I was also excited for her Thanksgiving outfit...especially her first time wearing tights!  There is nothing like little baby girl tights, even if they already ripped in the first 4 hours she had them. It was fun to see her almost-crawl for us today. She didn't use her back legs (is it called "creeping?) but was pulling herself along to have a go at the Christmas tree. Yes, I said Christmas tree. I am on the taboo side of decorating for Christmas at Thanksgiving. Mostly because I don't have Thanksgiving decorations and because I am a sucker for red.
I promised I cleaned the house! It looks like everything ended up on the ottoman. Included the kiddos.
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