My Apologies to the Dog

I’m having some guilt. You see, I meant to have professional pictures of our family taken this year. Then I got a little distracted with moving, settling into our new house, hosting lots, not to mention the other huge blow to my productivity aka Hadley Magnusson.

So the pictures never quite happened. And when you don’t plan ahead of time to take a family shot of everyone, it doesn’t happen. Or when it happens that someone else is available to take a picture of your family, my hair is a mess or outfits just aren’t right OR the dog (who is an important member of our family) isn’t with us.

Before I knew it, it was two weeks before Christmas and the only acceptable Christmas card candidate was a picture that my sister Tori had snapped of us playing in the snow in early December. And by us I mean Josh, Hadley, and me. Henry, my first baby, was somewhere nearby, roaming the winter wonderland. Completely, blissfully unaware that the family photograph of the YEAR was happening without him. If he did know, I’m pretty sure that all of the insecurities he has felt about being replaced by Hadley would be confirmed.  Or maybe I’m projecting human emotions on my dog again.

Regardless, I feel bad that the combination of my procrastination and photogenic issues have led to Henry’s absence in our 2013 family portrait.  So I feel the need to publicly apologize to our precious Henry, who in case you were wondering, is still very much alive and well.

Sorry, Henry. You’re still our number 2.

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Christmas: Part One

Holidays with a one-year-old are a little tricky. On the one hand, she doesn’t get what is going on. I took full advantage of this last year. Hadley’s first Christmas presents included a stocking, some Christmas pajamas, and toys purchased by her grandparents. I mean, she slept through the whole thing. But of course this year, she is an entirely different creature and I feel like I should do more. Last December she was an immobile infant with dark brown hair and her vocabulary included giggles and cooing. Now she’s an active toddler, somewhere between a brunette and blonde, talking up a storm, and at times a wild woman. We’ve left the baby stage and are stepping into the territory where we can start doing psychological damage. Your parents didn’t get you any toys for TWO years in a row?? Wow, they must really not love you. Okay, even if it doesn’t come to that, I want to get her new things that will bring joy to that sweet little face. But I also don’t want to overwhelm, overstimulate, and overdo it. KEEP IT SIMPLE. That’s my mantra.

As part of this grand effort to be minimal, we are adopting the tradition of giving Hadley three gifts for Christmas. I first read about this on Momastery.com, one of my favorite blogs. As she hilarious puts it, “Listen, Jesus only got three gifts. Are you really prepared to argue that you deserve more presents on GOD’s birthday than God got on God’s OWN birthday?” – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2013/11/25/keep-simple-sisters/#sthash.HSB8E1gR.dpuf

Luckily, since she’s one, we don’t have to reason it through with her or explain anything. In fact, the only real problem so far is my own tendency to get carried away. Damn you Amazon for making it far too easy to click, buy, and show up at my door 48 hours later. Oh and the suggestions of other products I might enjoy, plasticky pink treasures that in my dreams will keep my toddler entertained for hours? These too are wastes of money. In fact, what will actually keep her entertained is trying to squeeze into the cardboard box that the toy arrives in. I can’t tell you how many boxes have kept her happy for how many hours. This is what I have to remind myself when I get tempted to overspend.

Another contributing factor in our keep-it-simple plan is that we celebrated with my family a couple of weeks early. BREAKING UP THE PRESENTS is huge. My Mom was in town to get some stuff done on their new house (ten minutes away from us!!), and so yesterday we hosted my parents and two local sisters and their families for a little Christmas celebration. It was the perfect Christmas kick-off. Snow was falling as first we feasted, while the older kids tried to eat with presents for them in the next room – no easy task. And then after the lunching was done, they had to wait even longer for sleeping Hadley to wake from her nap. I was happy to let her sleep through the gift opening, but the grandparents insisted that all grandkids be present for presents. When I came down with Hadley in my arms, I’m sure her cousins have never been quite so happy to see her. She beamed at their joyful faces, thrilled to be the center of their attention. Ignorance is truly bliss.

Seeing how delighted Hadley was in her two presents just reconfirmed that we’re doing the right thing by trying our best to keep it simple. No, she doesn’t yet understand why the toys are arriving for her. Nor did she expect more than she was given. One more toy wouldn’t have made a difference to this face.

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So as an adult, as a parent, as an almost thirty-year-old, you would think that I would have internalized what I’m trying to teach my child. I think my intentions are good, of keeping it simple, remembering what is important and why we spend this time of year celebrating with loved ones. I might have moved on from the sick-with-anticipation for presents chapter of my life, but I am happy to have pretty things showing up for me on Christmas morning. Do I end up shopping for myself when I had every intention of hunting for good deals for Josh on Gilt? Guilty. Did I pout when I found out Josh hadn’t yet purchased anything in addition to the presents I had already picked out for myself, and then had him enter the credit card information – just to make sure that he bought it for me. It’s possible. And then of course he got me something else because of my clear disappointment. Oh, the shame.

The thing is, I don’t have Hadley’s excuse of not knowing what is going on. But I do have the excuse of being human, and therefore, very forgetful. We need to be reminded, year after year, what this season is really about. My reminders often come to me through Christmas hymns. I’ve been singing my favorite ones to Hadley each night before bedtime. The weight of her in my arms, clad in penguin footsie pajamas, pressing her face to my chest as I lull her to sleep after a day of toddler highs and lows, this is when my heart opens and the light creeps in.

“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray”

“With the poor, the mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Savior holy”

“And our eyes at least shall see Him
Through His own redeeming love
For that child, so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above”

“Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die”

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices
Oh night Divine, Oh night when Christ was born”

How often have I sung the words to these cherished songs, year after year? And how often do I think about their meaning? Definitely not thinking about them when I’m obsessing about the perfect gifts we need in order to be happy. We already are happy, we already are blessed beyond anything I could ever buy, wrap up neatly, and place under the tree.

Oh, and here is some proof of just how blessed we are, sharing a Christmas celebration with family (missing several crucial members in Utah, Florida and London, of course)

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Now if I can keep remembering the reason for the season this week with a fevering baby, when I’m frantically getting Christmas cards sent out, or when I’m traveling to West Virginia for six hours in the car with Hadley who LOATHES the car seat, it’ll be a Christmas miracle. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Lessons in Hosting

When we moved to our new house, one of the things we were most excited about was being able to properly host. Our old house was fine for just us, but our teeny tiny combination living room, dining room, kitchen could be easily filled with a handful of friends. We never even really had my family over because there’s just too many of them. And then once we had Hadley, having people over was even more stressful. Nothing makes you feel more like a hosting failure than shushing your guests for laughing too loud when your baby is trying to sleep just a few yards away. 

Now that we have more space, and a basement with a guest room and sleeper sofa, we have been making up for lost time hosting. Since moving in five months ago, we have had either family or friends staying in our guest room on eleven different occasions! And that’s of course not counting the dinners, birthday parties, and family get togethers. It’s been really great to spend all this time with our loved ones, and I love how Hadley is used to having adoring grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends surrounding her. And I think I am getting better at it. It certainly does not come natural to me. As the fourth of six children, I’m not used to being the one who takes charge. Now that I’m a mom, I am always leading and thinking about someone else’s needs before my own. So I’m trying to learn this skill, and also the skill of NOT trying to perfect everything. Because as soon as my house is spotless, people come and live in it and it’s messy again. So, really it’s okay if my mother-in-law sees that sometimes my refrigerator is not completely wiped down and organized. 

For Thanksgiving this year, Josh’s family came from West Virginia to stay with us for a few days. It was bitterly cold this week, but luckily Hadley and her cousin Sophie keep each other entertained. Those little blondies could be sisters with how much they resemble each other, and they get along really well which is nice. And plus they are just SO sweet together. Lots of kisses, cuddles and fun in the bath together. 

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I was a little nervous about hosting the mother of all meals at my house. It was added pressure for me since we were really hosting for the whole week, not just the meal, and my sisters were coming over for dessert with their families. The day before our West Virginia family arrived, I went shopping to scrounge up some last minute Thanksgiving decor. At Hobby Lobby, I learned that I am a deadbeat crafter because the rest of the world has already moved on to Christmas. Three days before Turkey day, and there was one measly aisle of Thanksgiving decor left. The upside was that everything remaining was 80% off. So I grabbed a couple of florals to potentially arrange into name card holders, chargers, and of course some burlap. And then at the last minute I decided to stock up on wrapping paper to avoid feeling like a procrastinator again for the next holiday.

Good news is everything came together really nicely. It was actually one of the most civilized Thanksgivings I’ve been a part of. We all contributed a couple of dishes, and having two ovens is simply a game changer. And the best part for me? Hadley napped through the whole meal so I got to eat a hot meal without sharing a bite. For that I was most thankful. 

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This Is What HGTV Does To Me

One of the challenges that comes when you move from a 1,200 square foot house to a 3,500 square foot house is furnishing all of those empty rooms. Our new house is one we can thankfully grow into, but we still want it to look furnished and loved before we expand our brood. We have been trying to take it slow, filling and decorating each room one by one. Four months of living here, and I have one room done. And even as I’m saying that, I immediately start questioning the “completed” dining room… wait, do I need curtains on the other window? Is that rug working? Should it be bigger? What about the candles… really they should be replaced with something more wintry looking come December, right? 

In order to protect the bank account, we’ve tried to go the DIY route when we can. Fortunately, living in Loudoun means we are surrounded by consignment shops and antique stores where I can hunt for good finds. Plus, I’m at stay at home mom… I watch way too much HGTV and I love a good project to tackle during nap time! We have also discovered that it’s really fun to do these projects together, which is sort of shocking considering any home improvement endeavors we’ve tackled as a team have pretty much been the opposite. But there’s a huge difference (to me) between hanging curtains and restoring old furniture. Much more relaxing and fun than drilling too many holes in the wall while your one year old tries to put bolts in her mouth. So, Josh will do any sanding or steps that require tools, and then I handle the painting. Having a garage now also really helps. I just plug in the baby monitor while Hadley is down and get as much done as I can. Here’s a little showcase of some of our efforts. 

BEFORE

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Here’s the before. We found this piece marked down at the Old Lucketts Store to $40. It was in really good shape, just needed a little sanding on the top and a good scrub. We did two coats of chalk paint and a coat of wax on top.

AFTER

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And now here she is in my sitting room. It’s one of my favorite pieces in our house and Josh is happy to have a place to put his decanter – which is needing a bourbon refill.

BEFORE

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Sorry, this before picture is really bad but I forgot to take one and this is the only picture I could find documenting what it used to look like. My sister Megan generously gave us her old sideboard. We sanded it down and did three coats of Benjamin Moore Summer Nights. We also spray painted the hardware oil rubbed bronze.

AFTER

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I love neutrals, so adding this bright pop of blue was really scary to me but I’m really happy with the results!

We are also currently spray painting our brass door knobs and hinges to oil rubbed bronze. We have most of the downstairs and about half of the upstairs complete. Turns out, we have a LOT of doors! But it really makes a huge difference. 

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                                      Just imagine all of the brass. Looks so much better.

Now I just need to be better at documenting my before and afters. Totally the best part of any DIY project and also why I was up too late last night to watch the reveal on Love it or List It. Hilary totally nails it every time. 

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Surviving the Week

I am so thrilled to kiss this week goodbye. I really should have known it would be rough, considering Monday was a holiday and this happens EVERY time we have a short week. My expectation for the week to fly by just sets me up to fail miserably.

On Tuesday I woke up not feeling well. Not to worry, I thought. It’s suddenly sub-arctic outside anyways, and I don’t have any plans and I don’t have to go to the store.  Hadley and I can have a cozy day indoors, watching movies and cuddling. Maybe I’ll do some baking. I really have been craving the chance to just be quiet and unproductive after a busy couple of months of hosting and entertaining.

Little did I know that overnight my sweet, snuggly baby had vanished and in her place was a version of Hadley that can only be described as a frustrated, furious, fiery toddler.  I was also blissfully unaware that Josh would be working late for the next two nights, leaving me on my own to try to battle comfort this angry child. I should have stayed in bed.

The tantrums started early and persisted throughout the day, until she finally just embraced steady screaming by the late afternoon. She repeated her efforts on Wednesday. I spent most of Wednesday night crying to Josh, frustrated, exhausted, done for. He suggested that she might be teething and I reminded him (sweetly, of course) that she has never flinched for any of her teeth coming in, and then kindly suggested that unless he was the one taking care of her when she is shrieking inconsolably for two days, or held a medical license, I didn’t want his opinion.

Thursday morning I braced myself for day three in hell, but to my surprise and delight, she seemed to be back to normal. I immediately said a silent prayer of gratitude that this wasn’t just who she had become now. She was happy (well, happy for a fifteen-month-old who can’t tell me anything she wants while simultaneously wanting EVERYTHING). We played outside for a good chunk of the day and we were able to venture back out into the real world. Target missed us I’m sure.

                                               The portrait of health playing outside yesterday afternoon

And then today she woke up with a fever and a runny nose. I was again perplexed. I didn’t feel like playing the guessing game anymore, especially with the weekend approaching, and pediatricians becoming unavailable – so I took her in.

Whenever I take her to the doctor’s, I always suddenly feel like I am overreacting about her symptoms. And today as she paraded around the waiting room, saying hi and smiling brightly at other patients, I had the distinct impression that this might be a giant waste of our morning.

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In the waiting room at the pediatrician. She’s about to approach a stranger and ask him to pick her up.

 

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                            Naked and inspecting a Highlights magazine…typical visit to the docs

The pediatrician took a quick look in her ears, declared them fine and then another quick look in her mouth, and declared that she has two molars coming in. Well actually, one that had just come in and another peeking through.  

So, she’s teething. Apparently a few days with an extremely fussy toddler does nothing for my motherly perception skills. I felt like an idiot. Who needs a pediatrician to diagnose their baby with teething? Isn’t that the number one excuse we give for our fussy babies? Even Josh knew what was going on and he has been working to the bone and exhausted.

Oh well. I’m so happy to have an answer, so happy that she isn’t sick or perpetually cranky, so happy this week is over. I don’t even really care that I’ll have to admit to my husband that I was wrong and he was right. 

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Just A Little Update

When my sister-in-law recently informed me that my last blog post was over six months ago, I was surprised. Not that I hadn’t posted in that long. I couldn’t believe anyone had noticed my absence. It’s probably no coincidence that my blogging took a hit when Hadley started moving. I used to be able to nurse her and type at the same time. And then of course when she started crawling, she started touching everything and trying to destroying some things – things like laptops and other expensive technological items. So that’s one of my excuses and the other is that life has been even busier than usual these past few months.

The biggest news is that we moved! We sold our sweet little Cape Cod in Falls Church and bought a house about an hour northwest, in Purcellville. It has been great… plus I really love that now I can say we live in wine country. The pace of life feels slower but not too slow. People are noticeably friendlier. We love our house, especially being able to host lots of friends and family. We live in town, and it’s so nice to be able to walk everywhere. In Falls Church we had to get in our car to go anywhere. I love being able to walk to the Farmer’s Market and the library with Hadley. The other day, she threw a fit when we tried to walk by the library without going inside. I’m not trying to read into it too much but I’m pretty sure that means she’ll be a future English major/ book nerd like her mom.

What else – oh yeah, Hadley took her first plane rides – and the first plane for this nervous flier in almost TWO YEARS. In June, we went to Phoenix for Josh’s brothers wedding and the next month to Salt Lake to see my baby sister off on her mission. Two of my best friends moved away (still makes me sad to acknowledge that). Josh and I celebrated our twenty-ninth birthdays, but Hadley really stole the spotlight with her first birthday – welcome to parenthood, right? Actually it was kind of nice to not think about how this is the last year in our twenties and instead focus on how amazing the last year of our life has been with the addition of Hadley.

Here are some photos from this beautiful fall – whyyy must it almost be over??

Out and about, soaking up the jacket and flats weather

Out and about, soaking up the jacket and flats weather

Walking path in our new neighborhood

Walking path in our new neighborhood

She looks like such a toddler in this picture! Sigh.

She looks like such a toddler in this picture! Sigh.

More neighborhood scenery

More neighborhood scenery

Please, can’t we stay outside just a little bit longer?

Huge perk of the move - being closer to cousins. Downside - learning to share.

Huge perk of the move – being closer to cousins. Downside – learning to share.

We spent a beautiful day in Harper's Ferry

We spent a beautiful day in Harper’s Ferry

The view from Dad's shoulders is a great one

The view from Dad’s shoulders is a great one

Hamming it up with some of her favorites

Hamming it up with some of her favorites

She's crazy, but we love her

She’s crazy, but we love her

GRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!

GRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hadley adores her Grampa or Bumpa, as she calls him

Hadley adores her Grampa or Bumpa, as she calls him

We took a mini vacation to the Virginia countryside and left Hadley home with grandparents. Amazing time and beautiful place!

We took a mini vacation to the Virginia countryside and left Hadley home with grandparents. Amazing time and beautiful place!

Visiting Avery at UVA. Now that she lives in Charlottesville, lunch together is a rare luxury!

Visiting Avery at UVA. Now that she lives in Charlottesville, lunch together is a rare luxury!

Not an uncommon sight in our house...

Not an uncommon sight in our house…

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What I Love Most

If we’re friends on Facebook, you undoubtedly know that these days I post a steady stream of baby pictures.  It’s really hard not to. I have to refrain from making posts daily because I get it… it’s obnoxious. I really don’t want to disappear into my child, or turn my profile into Hadley’s. That’s when the sweetness of being a new mom turns into creepy. The other day I caught myself on the verge of changing both profile picture and cover photo into babies latest photo shoot and I stopped myself just in time. But it is hard not to. She’s constantly being adorable and well, the truth is we hang out a LOT.

With all of this quality time comes so much – laughter, play time on the floor, nursing, diaper changing, dressing, walks around the neighborhood, reading (meaning I read the words while Hadley gnaws on the book), playing with toys and okay, the occasional TV show. I love hanging out with her. I make a conscious effort to soak up every moment because it truly is already flying by.

The thing is, while I am treasuring these moments, occasionally I’ll have the panicked realization that she isn’t going to remember any of them. Which is sad. And I find myself overwhelmed, wanting to share with Hadley all that we are experiencing together right now. I want to be able to tell her, years from now, how precious she has been to me from the moment I met her and all of the things I am learning about being her mom along the way.

When I told my dad that Josh and I were expecting, he said to me in his half-kidding but at the same time serious tone, “I’m so excited. Now you are going to know how much I love you.” And of course he was right. When I can happily sing a made-up song about poop in the middle of changing a dirty diaper, I know exactly what he meant. When I was a baby, I had parents who dragged their tired selves out of bed whenever I decided I needed them. They calmed me when I was upset, kissing away my tears. They changed my (cloth!!!) diapers. They delighted in my baby squeals and every new skill I developed. They protected me, worried about me, and loved me so.  I never really thought about this before, and it’s an overwhelming epiphany.

When I look at Hadley, I want her to know the little things that I adore about her, all the things that are unique and lovely to her. So I’ve started writing them down for her. One day she will read them and even though she won’t remember these moments, hopefully she will realize that she is so very loved. And always has been.

Here are the beginnings of this list, which grows longer each day.

You’ve been smiling at us since the day you were born. You are a CHAMPION sleeper and for that I thank you right now. You’ve been sleeping through the night since you were seven weeks old and now at seven months, you are out for twelve hours straight every night. Way to be. Every morning, you wake up slowly in your crib. I let you babble for a little while before going in and saying “Good morning!” You always light up when you see me and instantly start my day off with pure joy. When you get excited, you start to pant. We think you might have picked it up from Henry (the dog, not your cousin). It’s just the cutest thing. You love bath time, and splashing in particular. You sit in your bath and kick as hard as you can, with the most determined expression on your face. Now that you are big enough to join us for dinner, we love sharing bits of our meal with you. You are a big fan of the greens – avocados, pears, and broccoli. Also meat and beans. When I pick you up out of the crib, you immediately wrap your arms around me tightly. It melts my heart every time. You look so much like your dad (but a much prettier version). The older you get, the more of myself I see in you – mostly your blue eyes.

So inadequate, I know. But for all that I can’t put into words, I have faithfully documented with the camera.

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