Tag Archives: family

Trains & Trolleys & 2 Two-Year-Olds

Yesterday was a big day over here. Hadley turned 2 and all of our local family came over to celebrate her and cousin Henry, whose birthday is exactly two weeks before. It seemed too cruel to subject our family to two toddler parties back to back, so my sister and I decided to combine them. Since Hadley loves all things Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with a specific obsession of trolley and Henry loves trains, we picked a trains and trolleys theme. Hadley has been talking about her “try-try” party for weeks. As my dad pointed out several times, a two-year-old might never remember the grand efforts made by their mothers (in fact, this morning Hadley mostly only recalled that she had to share her balloons with her cousins, lovely toddler that she is)…. and for this reason, I took lots of pictures.

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Happy Birthday to our sweet Hadley girl. You make life so much better.

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A Day at Gettysburg: Proof That I Love My Husband

One of the really fun things about Hadley getting older is seeing her world of people expand from me and Josh to so many others that love her. Of course, those people have always been there but for a long time she was pretty much just really into her mom and sometimes her dad. Saying that she had separation anxiety is putting it mildly. Not only would it upset her that I left, she would be upset whenever I started to walk away from her. And continue to be upset until I picked her up and held her. Of course it’s nice to be loved and needed, but it can also be exhausting (especially when your little one is 25 pounds). So now I am all the more grateful to see her LOVE going to nursery (she actually cheers “Church!” “Church!” as we near the building), and watch her develop bonds with other people. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t want to talk about them, especially her many cousins, aunts and uncles and of course, grandparents.

Now that my parents are ten minutes away, she gets lots of time with Granddad and Sue Sue, which is really fun. This past weekend, we all took a trip up to Gettysburg. NOT the most toddler friendly place (or Erin-friendly place) in the world, actually pretty much the opposite, but we somehow still had a great time. I kept the one-year-old entertained so the other adults could soak up the history of the place. I loved how beautiful it was and that Hadley could run around the countryside. I cared less for the thorough history lesson, but was happy to make my military-obsessed husband happy. He is already excited to go back, sans me and the baby next time I’m pretty sure. 

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And before you start to think I’m the worst mom in the world, that is a GINGER beer she is chugging in the last picture. I am pretty sure she thought it was beer though. 

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Pad Thai at Home

There’s one thing that’s really hard about living out here.  Welllll, Josh’s long commute might make it two things. But the more difficult one, the one that impacts our everyday life and compromises my general well-being? We don’t have an awesome go-to Thai take out place.

I know, it’s been a huge sacrifice.

And it has also driven me to make my own Thai concoctions, something I was never really tempted to try to at home because how can you beat good take-out Thai?? You can’t. Or at least I can’t.

I did, however, make AWESOME Pad Thai for my husband one night. And then when I tried to mimic the meal for his family over Christmas, well it turned out pretty good. Not take-out caliber, but it was yummy. Somehow I can never really nail a recipe when I’m cooking for a bunch of people. Under pressure cooking just makes me flustered. Ever notice how serene and smiley those women are on the Foot Network? That’s pretty much the opposite of me when I’m cooking for a party of 4 and up.  I’m usually schlepping a beer and prematurely making excuses for the outcome of the meal. Blaming the pans I have to work with, or they didn’t have the ingredient I always use at your grocery store, orrrrr I am just nervous to cook for everyone after raving about how good this turned out the last time.

But my Thai-loving family flattered me greatly by asking me to post this recipe for them. I was really just happy to have my two-year-old niece Sophie’s approval – girl had multiple bowls and she is the Pad Thai master.

So this is for you, Soph!

Chicken Pad Thai   *a variation of Food & Wine’s Quick Shrimp Pad Thai

pad thai

1 lb chicken tenderloin

8 ounces pad thai noodles

4 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

4 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 serrano pepper with seeds, stemmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil

3 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 large eggs, beaten

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Toppings:

Roasted peanuts, crushed

Chopped cilantro

Bean sprouts

Lime Wedges

For the marinade:

To prepare the chicken, combine the 2 tablespoons chili garlic, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, ¼ cup lime juice and 2 tablespoons peanut butter in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Pad Thai:

1. Sautee the marinated chicken in a large skillet over medium heat. Once cooked through, transfer to a plate.

2. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover entirely with very hot water. Let soak approximately 5 minutes. Do NOT cook them completely. Otherwise they will become mushy by the end of the process. Mushy noodles are the worst.

3. Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, ¼ cup lime juice in a bowl.

4. In a large skillet or wok, heat about 3 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over high heat until tender and lightly brown, about 4 minutes.

5. Add the pad thai noodles and stir-fry until heated through, about 4 minutes. Scrape the noodles and chicken to one side of the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the empty side of the skillet. Add the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly set, about 1 minute.

6. Add the cooked chicken to the skillet.

7. Add the scallions and toss everything together, keeping the eggs relatively intact. Add the fish sauce mixture and stir-fry until the noodles are evenly coated. Transfer the pad thai to a platter.

8. Top with peanuts, cilantro and bean sprouts and serve with lime wedges.

 

Enjoy!! This is really pretty good and typing this all up is makes me want to try it again. Oh and Joni and Damien, don’t forget to leave out the shallots when you make this at home J

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Christmas: Part Two

As usual, I was stressed about all the wrong things this Christmas. This should be a lesson to stress less in general but… I think it might just be who I am so I’m going to let it go for now. As you know, I was really nervous about the long car ride with a seventeen month old who protests the moment she SEES her car seat. But in spite of that, we had a couple of things on our side this time. Normally our trek through the mountains of West VA involves some kind of precipitation in various form of ICE, gusting wind, semi-truckers who don’t seem to have a real grasp on how massive they are, and of course, the road to get there is windy and treacherous. Josh LOVES driving next to his anxiety-ridden wife, especially when I gasp and grab the Oh shit handle as we pass trucks, or when I demand that we never drive behind anything carrying logs, and the best– pointing out the dumb asses who are texting while driving. I seriously want a sign that I can hold up to my window, calling these people out for their recklessness. I mean do you drivers not see the perilous CLIFF to our right?? Or your kid in the backseat? And my BABY in my backseat? Okay, I’ll simmer down. Our drive was pretty easy. For starters, it was a balmy 65 degrees meaning no ice, no crazy wind. Also on our side? A happy baby. Hadley didn’t sleep at all, but she also didn’t scream. We DID listen to the Elmo CD for an excruciating seven times on repeat, but you do what you gotta do to keep the kid content or at least quiet.

I was grateful that we arrived without incident or major stress, and even more grateful that we got to spend a relaxing week with Josh’s family. His parents are so great about giving us a break from the baby so we can do exotic things like have a meal at a restaurant, go see a movie in the actual theater, and shop without worrying about when Hadley will get tired of being strapped in a cart. Last year Hadley was only five months old and still refusing a bottle, so leaving her was difficult and stressful and not really worth it. Now she is more than happy to hang out with Nana and “My Bumpa” as she calls them. 

I love the Christmas Eve service at the church. Simple message, beautiful music, and the peaceful lighting of the candles. I remember last year my sister-in-law Joni and I were SO stressed about bringing the babies to the service. Any church service is stressful with babies, but particularly the quiet and peaceful ones involving open flames. Of course, since I was worried about it, infant Hadley was absolutely fine. And consequently, I wasn’t stressed about it at all this year, and toddler Hadley was the opposite of fine. At the start of the program, she decided that she needed to be part of the nativity display at the front of the chapel. If a seventeen-month-old blond baby jabbering to the animals in the stable weren’t distracting to the rest of the congregation, the moment she shouted “BUMPA” to her grandfather giving the sermon certainly was.

So here’s where we spent the Christmas Eve service. 

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                                       Thankfully, she found another nativity display to mess with

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                                                      Please can’t I go inside and see my Bumpa?

 

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                                                                            She eventually found him

As much as I was convinced that Hadley wouldn’t really understand what was going on Christmas morning, she picked up on the present thing pretty quickly. Since she (we) love accessorizing, one of her stocking gifts was a pack of hair bows. A few presents later, she got another hair bow from Josh’s mom. She looked up at me and said “More?” Yep, baby girl, that’s pretty much how the day will go. Followed by the inevitable overdosing on food, and the subsequent falling asleep in front of the television after dinner. 

We spent a lot of time just watching Hadley and her cousin Sophie interact. Some of my best childhood memories are vacations with my extended family, and I LOVE it that Hadley is always surrounded by her cousins. Built-in playmates for life. Always someone to do Ring Around the Rosey with and for Hadley, it doesn’t get much better than that. 

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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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