March 31, 2014

on stages and phases and the cute things little miss is saying these days

Parenthood is kind of funny, in that as soon as you think you've figured things out, something else hits; growth-spurt, teething, sickness, vacation, daylight savings, etc. (So really funny was a poor word choice, but twisted feels too... ominous...?) Just one of those things throws off everything and it feels like normal, whatever that means, will never return again. But it does, just in time for something else to arrive and turn your world inside out and upside down. It's not just sleep schedules that make parenthood a roller-coaster, there are phases and stages galore. Good stages and bad stages. Biting, screaming, hitting... you get the idea. But it's all just stages. Ask any parent, well any parent who isn't currently living life in a less than desirable stage, and they'll assure you, nothing lasts forever. It's hard to believe when you're sleep deprived or there are teeth marks in your shoulder, but before you know it that phase is just a memory.
I hate to admit it, but we've been fooled again. We were blissfully enjoying our angelic pre-terrible-two-year-old, assuming life would remain in this state of happiness forever. Let's just say we were a little premature in our sigh of relief that little miss wasn't going to come close to the terrors we've been dreading. She sure had us fooled. 
But really, it's our own fault. Who thinks a child who is twenty-eight months reserves the right to never test the boundaries a little? Never explore the limits of her curiosity? Which are all good things when you step back from the make-up covered bathroom and resistant bedtime routine. All things she needs to learn; things she can't learn from a book. And isn't that what we're all doing? Learning, growing and trying not to make the same mistakes twice. It just feels more frustrating when you're dealing with someone three feet tall who's embracing her independence for the first time ;) I try to remind myself that we're all happier when we step back and let her learn, grow, explore and exercise her independence. It may take a little longer, but avoiding a tantrum is worth it. Safety first, of course.
All that being said, she still is truly a wonderful girl. And she's been reminding us of that with all the cute things she's been saying this past month.  So have yourself a chocolate chip cookie (that's what I'm enjoying - told you I can't get enough of them!) and read all about what little miss has to say:

- While jumping on the couch cushions she'd arranged across the floor, "Want to jump with me? Come here Luke!"
- Noticing my the freckles on my arms, she inquired,"Why you have sprinkles on your arms?" I explained that they were "freckles" and showed her that there were more on my face. She responded,"Silly mommy! Sprinkles on your face!!!"
- Any time Luke is crying more than a little, "OH MY GOODNESS LUKE!"
- During a family home evening lesson on President Monson,"That's our prophet, he has EARS!" (Which is funny because he's kind of known for his ears ;)

- As soon as Jeremy walks in the door from school she often asks,"How was your test, Jer?" We've decided Jeremy has too many tests.
- In the above picture she had just said,"Please can Luke come in my tent mommy? And please can I have a blanket? And please can I have three books? And please can Luke have his squeaky giraffe? ....thank you mommy." And my heart melts...

- While getting dressed for church one Sunday morning she invited me to come to nursery with her. I explained that while she goes to nursery I go to Sunday school. And ever since she's made it very clear that she doesn't want to go to Sunday school, she wants to go to nursery. "You go to Sunday school mommy, I go to nursery." Sounds like a good plan, Madeline. Why didn't I think of that?
- Trying to throw something away but the trash wasn't in it's typical spot under the sink. She turned around, found it, chuckled a little and exclaimed,"What the heck!?"

- Again jumping on the couches, we over heard her say," Silly Madeline... jumping on the couches... hahaha"
- Jeremy asked her to close the fridge after she'd gotten her milk out and she said,"What? What you talk about...?"

- Asking me something about a "wama" one morning. I had NO idea what she was talking about until she said, with all the sass you can imagine coming from one little girl,"His name is KUZCO!" (as in she wanted to watch the llama in 'The Emperor's New Groove')
- One day every time something good happened she'd say,"Mommy that's TASTIC!" (fantastic)

- Pressing a silk flower to her nose, "Smells like something's burning..."
- I asked her if she wanted to help me scoop some cookies, to which she of course responded, "YES!"  I asked her to get our little cookie scoop out. She didn't see it in the drawer right away but did notice the ice cream scoop, did her little chuckle and while holding it above her head said,"Oooooh.... that's a good idea..."
- She was getting frustrated that her crayons kept rolling towards her, but they were on a slanted surface so I explained that gravity made them fall. "Well shoot..." she said.

- Any time Jeremy is kissing or tickling me, she runs over says says,"Stop doing mommy! Jer stop!!!!"
- Jeremy was with the kids in the living room but he was on his computer and not paying very close attention. Luke was laying on the couch and Madeline had been doing something else. Jeremy looked up when he heard Madeline saying,"This just isn't working!" She had Luke laying across both arms and she was holding him above the couch (thank goodness). "This just isn't working!" And we're glad it wasn't working!

- And lastly, my favorite from our little collection. During the middle of my family home evening lesson she pointed to my cheek and shouted,"THERE'S A LADYBUG ON YOUR FACE!!!" Not the most clever way of getting out of family night, but boy do kids start young. Can't wait til she's a teenager ;)
I'll never get tired of saying it, so you'll never be done reading it: I love you Miss Madeline! I love you even on the days you drive me crazy. Because at the end of the day, nothing can ruin the love I feel for you when I hear the sweet sound of your laughter or watch a smile cross your face. And if that wasn't cheesy I don't know what is. Happy Monday.

March 27, 2014

I have this dream...

Or maybe it's more of a wish? No lets stick with dream, it feels more romantic, which is most definitely the feeling I am trying to convey. And in this dream, I get a full night of sleep. I wake up when I'm rested and when the soft light of morning wakes me. Not when the baby wakes up hungry or when I hear "let it go, let it go!" being sung from the baby monitor (which is terribly cute, I must admit, but this is my dream remember?).  In this dream, rather than change two diapers and get everyone fed as soon as I'm woken up, I go for a run in our overly safe neighborhood that does not require me to stop and look for cars at every block. After my run I come home to a still and quiet house, help myself to a bowl of cereal and eat at my own leisurely pace. Not having to scarf it down before being asked to share by Madeline or having to run and help her with something. 

I shower in this dream without hearing a crying baby, or is that my imagination? I'm not on parade in my birthday suit for my two year old who keeps opening the shower curtain, leaving me freezing. I take a long, hot shower. Did I mention hot water is endless in this dream?  I blow dry my hair without having to stop Madeline from unwinding all the floss and filling her potty with hair bows. 

I'm not tied to a schedule of nursing, naps, snacks and diaper changes in this dream. I spend my day listening to my pandora station and working on things that fill my soul. I blog, I take pictures, I sew, I garden (haven't actually done this one, but it sounds nice in my head...), I paint, I create. I lay in a hammock and listen to the wind blow through the trees. I don't have to rush to get supplies out as soon as the kids are down for naps, then hurry and put stuff away a short forty minutes later. Time is no issue. It's just me and the stillness. The highlight of my day is completing a project, not that my two year old pooped in the toilet. There is no endless scattering of dishes, toys and books. I don't have to pick up the living room ten times in the course of the day. There is no traumatic five o'clock hour, no rushing to get dinner ready, no whiny children and no hungry husband. No cutting everything into bite size pieces only to have them be rejected. Nothing stopping me from eating a hot meal in peace.

I go to bed when I'm ready, feeling rested and satisfied. I don't stay up late finishing the things I couldn't get done during the day. My cup is full and I feel whole again. 

I get another full night of sleep, and wake up to... my family. My beautiful, wonderful, busy, sometimes chaotic, very needy but oh so perfect family. And I am happy. Happy they are there again. Glad they're my forever. Grateful that they need me. Because by golly I need them too.

Someday I'll have a day like that, probably more than I'll want. Someday I'll miss the tiny feet tip toeing into my room because "shhh... kiet (quiet), Wuke (Luke) is sleeping" only to have her forget a minute later exclaiming that the iPod isn't working. Someday I'll long for this precious stage of life filled with ups and downs and more love I ever knew was possible. This truly is a great life I have. But I wouldn't mind just a day to myself  :)

my perfect chocolate chip cookie

I was whipping up a batch of my fav-a-fav chocolate chip cookies this afternoon for a little get together tonight, when I realized.... I still haven't shared my recipe! I did want to say, first, that while this is my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie, as close to perfection I will ever come in my baking career ;) everyone has their own opinions on what constitutes a great cookie and maybe this one isn't for you. Some people like their crackers cookies crunchy (you people are crazy...), others like warm cookie dough, and these are somewhere in the middle. They've got the slightest crunch but they're soft and just beyond gooey in the middle. They... sigh... I'm never going to do them justice, but I'll just say they never fail to make me say,"How are they so dang good!?" Seriously. Every. single. time.  So instead of you reading about them, you should go make some and then you'll see :)

1/2 C shortening
1/4 C butter softened (you'll be glad if you use the real stuff!)
1 1/4 C brown sugar
2T milk
1T vanilla
1 large egg
2C + 2T flour
1t salt
3/4t baking soda
I've never measured how many chocolate chips I put in... probably about 3/4 of a 12oz bag?

Directions:Cream shortening and butter together in a stand mixer. Add brown sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix well scraping sides. Add egg and mix again. Scrape sides of bowl again. Gradually add half of the flour with the mixer going. Then add baking soda and salt, the mixer should still be going. Add the rest of the flour gradually. The dough should be slightly sticky and should feel almost fluffy. Scrape the sides and mix a little more. Add chocolate chips to your personal taste but make sure you stir in chocolate chips, as in by hand. You know, burn a few calories, you're going to eat a lot more in a couple minutes, that is if you haven't started sampling the dough ;)

Bake at 375 for 6-10 minutes. Usually we bake like six at a time just because we eat them all if they're all baked. While they are still very good with out being having the dough chilled first, they are better if you chill the dough for at least a couple hours. I pull them out of the oven when the peaks are just barely starting to brown a little. They'll cook a little more sitting on the pan.

It's not a terribly large batch, which is good for us because we eat a couple every night if the dough is just sitting in the fridge. But if you have a large family or crowd I'd go ahead and double it.  


(And if you gain five pounds this week, you know why)

March 26, 2014

did I mention we had a baby?

Better late than never seems to be my life motto right now, but hey, we're rolling with it.  I've been working through a lot of I-want-an-education-but-it's-just-not-working-with-two-young-kids-right-now issues. Tried the online degree thing and it just wasn't working for a number of reasons. Chief among them being that getting a degree in something that's an option just because you want to graduate from college and not because it's something you are passionate about proves to become a chore very quickly and that's not really how I want to feel about my education years from now when I look back on my life.  My grandma Teddy is my hero these days. She got her degree later in life when she had the time, energy, and money to pursue it and loved every minute of it. The other day I took the final for the online class I've been trudging through to finish for the past year. I had to go to a local community college to be proctored. So here I was sitting in this tiny testing room, feeling nostalgic for BYU and the testing center (say what???) and a little bummed that it just wasn't meant to be right now, all while trying to do well on this test and anyway, there were just a lot of thoughts and feelings going on in my head and heart, when in walked a woman in at least her forties, sitting down to take a test, and I'll tell you it took all of my will power not to stand up and start clapping for her. I wanted to hug her, congratulate her, tell her how proud I was of her. I figured that maybe that was against testing center policy...? So I refrained, but you go girl!

Having our kids right away was the right decision for us and I don't regret it one bit. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not looking forward to "my time" someday. Whenever that day does come and however it happens, I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, when Emily of Jones Design Company started her Graphic Design mini series and then announced she would be selling an online Simplified Graphic Design course it felt like the answers to a million prayers. Spots were limited so I registered the very minute it opened up. It's been so great. I did the first half the day I started and it's like my brain is exploding with "mind blown" again and again. Stuff I've been trying to do in Microsoft Word for years that just really doesn't work because that's not what it's for and now with the touch of a button in Adobe Illustrator I can make it happen just the way I envisioned it. And the scary thing is I just barely know the basics! I'm loving this class, loving this new craft and form of art that I've been trying to do for so long but didn't really know what it was or what tools to use. I literally slept one hour last night because I was too excited to sleep and when I finally did calm down my mind was bombarded with idea after idea after idea. 

Feeling happy. Feeling satisfied. Feeling grateful for this answer to prayers. Glad to be able to continue my education even if it's informal for now. There's going to be a lot of changes around here in the coming months, and I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve just thinking about it!

being a mom is hard

Today I'm feeling grateful that a day is only twenty-four hours, and also that close to half of that time one of my kids is in her room for the night...

...because being a mom is hard. There I said it. It's hard. Not so much that I have any regrets about my choice to be a mom, not even the timing of it all, please don't get me wrong. I am very happy with this stage of life and where I am right now. Often we have days where I love every minute with my kids and I miss them while they sleep at night. But needless to say, today is not one of those days. 

I feel like often I do all in my power to give the impression to myself, as well as others, that I have it all together. That every day is blissful and my children just play nicely, smile for yet another picture I can post to instagram and life is really quite perfect. Which I guess *cough*cough* isn't particularly true...

But on the flip side of all of that, I also feel like the moment I give in to complaining and focusing on how hard daily life can be, I'll be sucked into a vortex of negative chaos that will never let up. 

I don't really know where all this is going, other than to share that it's on my mind, and I hope you don't think I'm perfect or anything. (And you're all like,"I don't know where you got the idea anyone thinks you're perfect... We all know you're a hot mess..."  haha... yeah..) 

But really, how does one find the balance between being vulnerable and honest about when times are hard, and pushing through, focused on the good times. I'll admit, it brings me a lot of happiness to scroll through pictures on my phone and remember all the happy times with my family. I like reading through old blog posts and putting myself back in that moment. Maybe that makes me a total snob? But hey, it makes me happy and I don't plan on changing. 

So if I do try to give the impression that I have a beautiful life that usually runs pretty smoothly, if I do focus on capturing the great moments rather than the hot-mess moments, if not quite pretending, but almost, I have it all together more often than not make me a dishonest person?  And is it shallow that I'm happier when I'm showered, well dressed and feeling accomplished? I realize that my worth is inherent, but does it mean I have poor self-worth if I like myself better when I am acting put together? That's just like "faking it til I make it", right? I'm really just acting the way I want to feel and there's nothing wrong with that... right? But am I really faking it? Because I do feel like on a scale from one to ten I'd give myself like a nine and a half. Not because I'm perfect and my life is perfect, but that I truly do find beauty in my life, with where we are as family right now. I'm happy. I love my life. Crappy car, undecorated walls, floral couches, lumpy bed and all. (Not that I wouldn't change every single one of those things if we could afford it ;) 

Well, I don't really know that we got anywhere with all that rambling, but I do feel better. Thank you blog for being a place to let my thoughts run wild and allowing me to be vulnerable, even if all I'm doing is admitting to the world that my mind needs two maps, a GPS, a compass and a whistle to follow. Just ask Jeremy, he knows :)

March 13, 2014

a few photos from when my mom came to visit

^^waiting for grandma at the airport^^
Wish I could remember all the thoughts and feelings I wanted to write about way back in January when my mom came to visit, but it was such a long time ago, and I was sleep deprived, and to tell you the truth I haven't had a whole lotta sleep since ;)

What I do remember is it was a nightmare and a half for her to get here. Her connecting flight was canceled during her first flight, then she was rerouted a couple times and missed a couple flights..? Ended up at a different airport further away from us but the timing was different? So we ended up waiting for her for a couple hours at the airport. And while we were at the airport, my milk let down everywhere and Luke peed all over Jeremy during a diaper change. Fun times. But she made it the same night she was supposed to! Which we were so grateful for.

It was a lot of fun just being together. We played games, went to Storyville one day. Got to show her where we go to church and let her meet some of our friends here in Baltimore. 

I sure love my mom, I'm so grateful for her coming out to help us out.  Wish we lived closer, but super grateful for technology that makes it seem like we aren't quite so far way :)

March 4, 2014

photo dump/recap on fun times with family

We had the absolute best time with my dad and Jeremy's parents last week. It was hard to see them go… They came to see us and where we live and in particular to meet Luke for the first time and be here for his blessing. We feel so blessed to have such great parents who are so supportive and wanting to be a part of our lives and the lives of our kidS (still getting used to the plural :) Wish we lived closer to either of them, but we're so so grateful for the ease of communication and travel we are blessed with in this day and age. 
^^My dad got here Tuesday evening. This was taken not two minutes after my dad walked through the door. Madeline knew exactly who he was and was showing him everything in her room^^
^^Wednesday we made an IKEA believer out of my dad^^ 
^^And we also hit up Build-A-Bear. It was always a hit with us as kids growing up (Jeremy had never heard of it though!) so my dad thought it would be fun to take Madeline. And boy was he right. She loved it. Two funny things about our trip there: The name the bear has on its foot is "Bearemy" which we got a kick out of because it sounds like "Jeremy". Then at the end when Dad and Madeline were picking out a name for her, I gave Madeline three suggestions, the middle one being "Danielle" (trying to be funny because my Dad's name is Daniel) and without hesitation that's what she picked! And it's totally stuck. So far her little toy friends haven't had names that have stayed (i.e. her doll is "Dollie", baby is "Baby", etc), but Danielle stuck from the beginning and is still going strong. It took her a day to say "Danielle" really well, so at first she'd say things like,"Hey Daniel. Do you want me to burp you Daniel? Do you need a diaper change Daniel?" We had several good laughs about it :) 
^^We were taking a picture of Jeremy's parents for them when Madeline walked over with the straightest face to be in their picture ha^^
^^Thursday Jeremy's parents got into town and we visited the D.C. Temple. Wish we would have had time to go inside, but it was still fun to see it and see the Visitor Center, too.
^^Friday my dad was attending a conference in Virginia. I had hoped to make a little something out of the day with Jeremy's parents, but thanks to a rainy afternoon we kept things pretty chill at home. We did manage a little walk and played at the park near our home for about ten minutes before it started to rain! We rushed home but we were still pretty soaked.
^^Luke talking to Grandpa Wells^^
^^Saturday was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I wish that weather would come back, because we're back to cold and snowy… blah. But I'm glad it was nice for when they were here. My dad was still at the conference, but the rest of us had a great time checking out Fort McHenry and Federal Hill park.

Saturday was the day of the blessing. I'm so glad they were all here. (group shot at the bottom of the post) It was sad that my mom couldn't be here, too. She sure wanted to, but I still have a lot of siblings at home who needed her. (She came in January, which I'm realizing now I never blogged about… pictures coming soon!)
It was so much fun to have them here. We were packed in like sardines in our two bedroom apartment, but it was so worth it. A big thanks to all of them for making do with our humble offerings as far as room, food, and uh personal space go. Someday I hope we'll have a nice guest room with a private bathroom to offer you :) 
Promise I took a picture of Jeremy's parents with the kids, too. But I don't know what I did with the memory card!!! oops. I'll find it.
Lots of teary eyes at the airport Monday morning. Jeremy's parents flight left first so Madeline and I took them to the airport (Jeremy had a test Monday morning at 8am…). I don't think she fully realized we were leaving them there because she didn't seem terribly sad, which surprised me a lot. About half way home, though, she suggested we go back to the airport to pick up grandma and grandpa Wells. I told her they were going home to Florida. Then I suggested we call them on the computer (Skype) them on Sunday. And the flood gates were opened. It hit her hard that they weren't coming back in a couple hours. That things were going back to normal… She just bawled the rest of the way home.

Luckily she got it together for the last couple hours with my dad, but on our second trip to the airport that day she knew what was going on and the tears fell freely. *sigh* I hate goodbyes. 
^^I sure love my Dad…^^
I can't tell you how great it was to have all of them here. It was so special to show them our city and our home. And especially to let them meet Luke. Thanks to all three of them for making the sacrifice to be here with us! Looking forward to the next time :)