Tag Archives: family

Annabelle Lyn: 11-12 Months

1 Apr

Annabelle was 11 months on February 27 and 12 months on March 27 (Easter Sunday). I can’t believe she’s ONE!20160327_131923 (Large)Annabelle has changed so much in the past 2 months!

Size

Annabelle is still wearing almost all 12-month size. Through 11 months, some 9-month things still fit but a few days after her birthday, I boxed up everything smaller than 12 months, and got out her 18-month stuff (which is still a little big on her). She’s wearing size 4 diapers.

Her 12-month checkup was today and she is now 29 inches tall (53%), weighs 21 lb 5 oz (72%), and has a head circumference of 19 inches (99.3%).

20160327_125457 (Large)Eating

Annabelle is still nursing about 3 times during the day and a couple times at night (just because of teething). She has figured out how to suck on a sippy cup and tip it up so we’ve started giving her whole milk in an effort to move toward weaning but she seems to prefer water (and nursing).

20160224_114520 (Large)Annabelle’s favorite foods are purees (though we’re trying to be done with those), yogurt, cheese, toast, puffs, strawberries, green beans, mandarin oranges, raisins, pears, peaches, and applesauce. She has tried and liked grapes, cottage cheese, broccoli, corn, peas, and cooked carrots (but we haven’t fed them to her very often). She’s not a huge fan of blueberries, rice, black beans, or butternut squash. When she doesn’t like a food, gets sick of eating it, or is done, she starts throwing her food on the floor behind her. If she wants more, she wails for a bit and then waits to see if you’re listening before continuing. She also gets a kick out of feeding the dogs, and pretending to give you a piece but not letting go of it.

Annabelle has eight teeth (the four in the middle on both top and bottom) and has been working on her bottom molars for what seems like forever (it’s probably been 3-4 weeks). They’re just now starting to peek through her gums.

20160227_121527 (Large)20160302_181722 (Large)Sleeping

Teething means that Annabelle’s sleep is not the greatest. She’s up 2-3 times a night, usually the first time about 3 hours after we put her down, then again 4 hours later, and then up for the day between 6 and 7 am. There has been a night here and there that she has slept through the night, but that is definitely not the norm. The fact that she does is occasionally though gives me hope that once teething is over (or at least stops for a while), her sleep will improve. PLEASE!?!?!?!20160229_130737 (Large)Annabelle is moving toward dropping her morning nap and only takes one nap a day about half the time. If she does take a morning nap, it’s short — 20-45 minutes. When she only takes one nap, she’ll go down around 12:30 or so, and sleep until 2:30 or 3. Which means that Emma and Annabelle no longer nap at the same time (single tear). Emma is moving toward not napping at all, so some days, I just have her do an hour of “room time” (usually 15-30 minutes of reading/playing, and then 30 minutes of watching the iPad) so that I still get a chunk of sans-Bisk time.The benefit of Emma not napping is that she goes to bed at 7:30 instead of 9:30, so Travis and I actually get an evening together! Some days, that’s totally worth no break during naptime. And if I’m taking care of one kid, I might as well be taking care of both of them and have them both go to bed early!

IMG_20160308_145014 (Large)Development

Another potential contributor to Annabelle not sleeping well is that she has exploded in gross motor development! Around 11 months, she started leaning forward on her hands and then sitting back, so that she could sort of scoot in a circle doing that. Then she spent 2 weeks getting in a crawling position, and sitting back down. Then she spent about a week getting in the crawling position, inching forward a bit and sitting back down. Finally, about a week before she turned one, she started crawling for real! Now she’s all over the place and into everything. It’s about time. 😉IMG_20160315_164426 (Large)

She has also gone from sleeping in one position all night, to sleeping on her side, to rolling on to her stomach and getting mad because she (thought she) couldn’t roll back, to sleeping on her stomach 80% of the time by choice. In the past couple of weeks, she has started to sit up in her crib when she’s unhappy, and just this past week started pulling herself up to standing in her crib (and pretty much everywhere else she can).

20160327_184133 (Large)In addition to pulling herself up, she can climb stairs, cruise furniture, and take steps when you hold her hands. She did NONE of this a month ago, and had been so “plateau-ed” in that area, so it is seriously amazing to see her take off in gross motor development!

Annabelle loves to squeal and say “dada” — in a loud voice, normal voice, or whisper. She also likes to whisper “ssss… ssss…” and shout “ha… huh…” noises. She has said “mama” (but doesn’t often) and loves to say “uh oh.” Similar to her sister, she loves being held upside down, spun in a circle, dropped on her back onto a bed, steamrolled, and pulled/pushed in a stroller, wagon, swing, laundry basket, sled, you name it.IMG_20160322_191514 (Large)

Her personality is mostly mellow but there are definitely times when she gets wound up and shows similarities to her boisterous sister.

Annabelle puts up with a lot of rough play from Emma, and has a pretty easygoing personality about most things, but does not like being held up or thrown high in the air. She is also very hesitant about different textures. In the past 2 months, she’s experienced snow, grass and sand, and didn’t like any of them. I also showed her a wire heart covered in garland and she wouldn’t even touch it. These things haven’t really been a problem yet, and hopefully they’re just like her reactions to food — once she experiences it a few times, she warms up and it’s no big deal.12779106_1084627788234209_8896076473531583942_o

Annabelle tasting the frosting on her birthday cake:

She ended up eating most of the frosting, but hardly any of the actual cake.

A few habits Annabelle has that I do not like are scratching my chest and grabbing/pinching my chin while nursing (it seriously hurts!), and also biting me when she wants to nurse.

Annabelle also had her first scrape in the last two months. We were at a local pool and I had placed Annabelle, unstrapped, in her carseat under the watch of my friend while I went to the bathroom to change clothes. Annabelle leaned forward and fell out on her face on the rock floor, got a bruise on her forehead, and a scrape on her chin. Poor baby and mommy fail!IMG_20160304_101758 (Large)

And that’s Annabelle at ONE YEAR!

Grief.

21 Mar

My mom is dead. My mom died.

I keep repeating those words in my head, unable to comprehend this truth. We knew it was a possibility, even a probability, for so long and yet now that it’s happened, it doesn’t feel real.

Other times it feels like a stab in the heart. Or like an elephant sitting on my chest. Like a nightmare I can’t outrun. Like someone else’s life I am observing. Like the whole world is different. Like the world is the same and I’m different.

With two young kids, I don’t have the option of sitting around grieving. And to be honest, even though spending extra time in bed or on the couch sounds appealing, I want to keep moving forward with life – if for no other reason than my mom would’ve wanted me to. Even in her last weeks and months, she was worried most about how her death would affect us, how we would handle the gaping hole she left in her wake. She was concerned about other people so much that it drove me crazy sometimes!

She loved being a mom, and for the past four years, a grandma. There is hardly any aspect about mothering now that does not remind me of her. When I nurse Annabelle, I think of my mom nursing me until I was over 2 (so she said, I don’t remember it). When I rock either girl in my arms, I think of my mom, who loved, loved, loved rocking babies (no sleep training for that woman!). When they cry, I think of how she wouldn’t have been able to stand it—her momma bear instinct was too fierce.

Those reminders of her make me want to be a better mom. A mom who is more patient, loving, kind, gentle, self-controlled and self-sacrificing. I want to “major on the majors” and make sure I find time for the most important things, not let my days get eaten up with things that don’t really matter (even if they’re things I enjoy). I want to live my life with joy and passion, to pursue my dreams, to make the best use of my days. I want to enjoy being a mother, to truly embrace my role and not just view my girls as impediments to my freedom and personal time (which I do sometimes because I’m selfish). I want to be compassionate and patient with my girls, to hold them when they’re crying, to get on their level and understand what’s wrong instead of getting mad that they’re being difficult. Because life is short, and I want to look back on these years able to say that I loved deeply and lived well.

As we sat by my mom in her last hours, my dad, older brother Jeremy, sister-in-law Jen, younger brother Chris, and I all took turns rubbing her arms and hands. Her freckled hands were as familiar to me as my own. They were her instruments of serving and healing. Those hands cared for us, patched wounds, massaged backs and legs, changed diapers, blew noses, washed bodies, applied sunscreen, dried hair, cooked meals, wiped tears.

I find myself wishing I could talk to her in prayer like Jesus. Even though we were blessed with time for saying goodbye in long, heartfelt conversations, I find myself replaying what I said and wondering, “Why in the world didn’t I bring up more fond memories, instead of her being left alone with all the kids for hours by my dad and grandparents, and her throwing the hairdryer in anger at me when I was being extremely difficult? Did I even tell her that I thought she was an amazing mom and friend, and loved her to the core of my being?” So I ask Jesus to tell my mom that I love her and miss her, and that those aren’t what I think of when I remember her.

Instead, I’ll think of how she was my favorite person on earth next to my husband and babies. I’ll think about how familiar and dear she was to me, and how genuinely I enjoyed being around her. Yes, it’s true her worrywart tendencies drove me crazy sometimes, but isn’t that a mark of true intimacy? I’ll think about the weeks last summer that the girls and I spent with her while Travis traveled. Precious memories. I took them so very much for granted. If I had known then that she’d be gone by now…

But here’s the thing about watching someone die from cancer or disease: you often don’t know what to do or say. Even as a Christian with the greatest hope in the world, I stumbled through conversations and interactions because I just didn’t know. You can’t fully understand what the other person is experiencing, and you’re dealing with your own hard, mixed emotions about the whole situation. You want to be positive, but not Pollyanna. You want to be encouraging, but realistic. You want to empathize with their sorrow and fear, but not contribute or add to it. You want to ask about the situation, but you also want to distract them from it.

What I decided early on, especially since it was my mom, was that I was just going to show up and be real. I was going to try hard to point her to Jesus, and remind her of the hope she had in Him, but if I didn’t have the words, or know what to say, I’d just be there anyway. And I’d say, “I’m not sure what to say.”

Same with being by her side in those last days. What do you do in that situation? I wasn’t sure, but before I even left my house, I determined that I would not let my weird hangups or fear of awkwardness make me regret not doing something for her or with her at the end of her time on earth. So I sat by her on the bed, holding her hand. I hugged her, and rested my head on her shoulder when I saw tears in the corners of her eyes as she listened to a music therapist named Julie sing Beyond the Sunset with just her voice and an acoustic guitar. I wiped her mouth, dotted chapstick on her dry lips, and told her through sobs that this wasn’t the way I’d remember her—that there was this picture from the Mexican family reunion where she was playing a guitar made out of a skewer and aluminum sheet pan and laughing. That’s how I’ll remember her.

My brother Chris called the Tuesday before she died. “They don’t think she has long left,” he said. Even though I had visited her in the middle of January and said what I wanted to say, how do you not rush to the bedside of one you love so dear? So I packed up and hit the road with Annabelle (Travis would follow with Tina Tornado on the weekend so that I could have some quiet time with my mom), arriving in Rochester Tuesday evening. As I was unloading the car, my dad took Annabelle up to see my mom. He said she just lit up when Annabelle entered the room.

That night and Wednesday, she was alert for 30 minutes or so every few hours. Wednesday night, my dad woke up Jeremy, Jen and me in the middle of the night, thinking that the end was near. But her heart was stubborn and held on for all of Thursday too. That was a long day. Some extended family came to visit. The music therapist and hospice nurse came for a bit. Several times, we thought the end was close, but she recovered, heart beating, lungs breathing.

Thursday night, we went to bed around 10:30. About 12:15 am on Friday, I woke up to my dad nudging me and he simply said, “She’s gone.” I got up and followed him into the hall, where we talked to my brother and sister-in-law a bit. We said good night and headed back to bed, but the second I got under the covers, I was like, “What am I doing? I can’t go back to sleep right now!”

So I headed upstairs and asked if I could see her. And it was true: she was gone. Just the shell of her earthly body remained. Her soul, the real her, was in heaven with Jesus. Chris said truthfully, “Now we’re the ones to feel sorry for.”

My dad called the funeral home and they said they’d be out in 30 minutes to take her body. So Chris went and got Jeremy and Jen, and we all stayed in the bedroom until the funeral home people arrived.

While they carried her body out of the house, the rest of us moved into the kitchen and Chris jokingly suggested taking shots of pickle juice (one of my mom’s favorite things) in her honor. “Let’s do it!” I said. So the five of us said, “Cheers,” and drank shots of pickle juice at 1:00 in the morning.

Early afternoon on Friday, Travis and Emma arrived, and the rest of our time down in Rochester was a blur of funeral preparations, seeing extended family and chasing wild kids. That was one of the hardest weeks of my life, and I was relieved when I could finally retreat to my own home and familiar comforts. I see vaguely now that part of the reason was that I wanted to escape the relentless reminders of her absence, a luxury my dad doesn’t have.

Two weekends ago, I returned to Rochester for the first time since my mom died. As I walked in the door of my parents’ house and saw a peace lily from the funeral my dad had placed on the piano, it hit me afresh that my mom was gone. It was just his house now. Little by little, evidences of her decorating, organization, presence will disappear. We boxed up unused medical supplies and sorted through her clothes, personal items, jewelry, shoes, and purses while I was there, making piles of things to keep, things to sell, things to throw. I know it’s time to do these things but it still just feels too sudden, too soon.  I haven’t been able to delete her contact from my phone because it feels like I’d be erasing her. I know it’s not… but still.

Grief is a process, and as the hospice chaplain told us, it’s different for everyone. When I focus on this earthly life, I am devastated my mom died. But when I remember the hope of heaven, and the fact that she’s there now, I feel peaceful. As one of the wonderful sympathy cards we received says (in the words of M.B. Anderson): “God confidently assures us—in the great symphony of life, the final refrain for the believing heart is triumphant, everlasting JOY.”

We’re sad on earth, but my mom is celebrating in Jesus’ presence. We saw her earthly life end, but she is living a glorious beginning.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

Emma Grace: 33 Months

19 Jan

Emma was 2 3/4 years back on January 7. Her 3rd birthday is going to be here before we know it!

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That’s a classic Emma face. {her school picture this year}

Here’s what Emma has been up to the last 3 months (Oct/Nov/Dec):

* Corn mazes — We went to two last fall (one local and one in KY) and she enjoyed both. But at the local one, she walked into the corn (off the path) and wouldn’t come out, and at the one in KY, she went into the corn maze by herself so that we couldn’t find her for 10 minutes. Worst 10 minutes of my life.

* Leaves — Emma loved playing in the leaves this fall! She liked laying on a big pile with a leaf “pillow” and being covered with a leaf “blanket”. She also thought it was a hoot to pick up piles of leaves in our hands, count to three and throw them in the air to rain on us.

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* iPad and movies — Emma LOVES watching shows on her iPad and has figured out how to use it all by herself. Her favorite shows are Sofia the First and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Her favorite movies are Monsters Inc, Frozen and Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue.

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Asleep with gum in her mouth and her iPad playing Frozen

* Dancing — She enjoys a good dance party and at her uncle Matthew’s wedding, she tore up the dance floor. She was pretty darn adorable twirling around in her little dress. (And I do mean little. Apparently, in the stressfulness of getting both girls and myself ready all by my lonesome, I accidentally put the 12-month size on Emma and the 24-month size on Annabelle. I noticed Emma’s dress was really short and a little tight but I just thought she had either grown faster than anticipated or I hadn’t thought to look at the length when I tried the dress on her. Similarly, when I put Annabelle’s dress on her, I thought I should’ve ordered the 9-month size since the dress seemed really big. D’oh!)20151015_104828 (Large)20160101_093156 (Large)

* PINK — This girl is still obsessed with pink everything. “Pink pony” (tail), “Pink poopy”, “Pink snowmobile”, “Pink truck”, “Pink daycare”, “Pink ice cream” are just a few of the endless list of things she tries to request in pink. For her birthday, we are going to throw her (and Annabelle) a “pink party” — everything will be pink. I think Emma will love it!

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* Dresses — Emma loves wearing dresses, which is funny because last summer, she didn’t want anything to do with them. She has gotten more use out of her summer dresses from last year during the fall and winter than she did then! Unfortunately I didn’t know this until after I bought her fall/winter clothes, so most of those have only been worn a couple times so far. Kids.20151026_134729 (Large)

* Crafts — Emma has really gotten into playdough, painting, chalk, drawing, glueing, glitter, etc. She got an art easel for Christmas from my parents and has loved it. She also loves trying to cut with scissors but hasn’t completely mastered that yet.20151227_173712 (Large)20151026_103056 (Large)

* Singing songs with actions — They sing songs at daycare and Emma has started singing them on her own. She knows about every third word but gets the right melody! And when we sing the songs, she’ll join it with the words she knows (she wouldn’t do that before, so it’s exciting to see progress!). Her favorite songs are Slippery Fish, The Freeze, Sticky Bubble Gum, and Fire Truck.

* Blankets — Emma now has 4 blankets on her bed (yet Travis has to go in every night before going to bed to cover her while she’s sleeping because she kicks them all off). She got a Frozen blanket for Christmas from Travis’ parents and she loves it. It has replaced her favorite blankie.

* Sleeping in places besides her bed — She has slept in bed with me on vacation since Annabelle was born (which she still enjoys), but now she also likes sleeping on the floor next to her bed, in the Frozen castle she got from Auntie Cari, or in her bedroom closet. She’ll even close the closet door! “Crazy Crinks,” we often call her. (Crinks was shortened from Crinkleberry. I don’t know how Travis comes up with some of the nicknames he uses.)20151015_111222 (Large)

* Girly stuff — Getting her nails painted, wearing stick-on earrings (we’re planning to get her ears pierced for real as part of her 3rd birthday present), and (sometimes) having me put her hair up with barrettes and pink ponytail holders

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* Playing outside — Emma has been loving snow this year. Last year, she wasn’t sure what to do with snow and just stood in place, but this year, she has helped us build snowmen, make snow angels, and “eat” snow and ice (the clean stuff!).

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* Baby sister Annabelle — Emma still loves having a baby sister, giving her lots of hugs and kisses, and bringing her toys to play with (if Emma wants a toy that Annabelle has, she’ll usually bring Annabelle another toy and grab the toy she wants. It works at this age, and it’s cute that she’s at least that considerate.)IMG_20160116_08402620151031_194449 (Large)20151116_104842 (Large)

* Sweets — I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like sweets, and Emma is no exception! Her favorite candies are suckers and candy canes. She loves chewing gum, and has lately developed a love for “strawberry cake” (angel food with strawberries and cool whip). 20160107_111741 (Large)

* Food — Emma’s favorite foods and drinks the past 3 months have been: mandarin oranges, apple sauce, yogurt, string cheese, baby’s purees and puffs, cereal, chocolate milk, peach tea, peanut butter, fruit snacks and animal crackers. Those are the things she requests the most often. But she also eats most vegetables (her favorites are broccoli and almost any kind of bean), noodles, deli turkey, quesadillas and toast. She eats pretty well for breakfast, lunch and snacks, but dinner has become quite the battle. She won’t eat unless she is sitting on one of our laps and we spoon feed her. I am hoping this is just a phase. 20151205_124030 (Large)

And that’s Emma at 33 months!

Annabelle Lyn: 9 Months

8 Jan

Annabelle was 9 months old back on December 27 but just now had her 9-month checkup. Apparently, you have to wait a certain amount of time between shots and one of her earlier checkups got pushed back. We should be back on track now though!
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Size

At about 9.5 months, Annabelle is 19 lbs 11 oz (71%), 28 inches tall (57%) with a head circumference of 18.66 inches (99.5%!). At 9 months, Emma was 19 lbs 10.5 oz and 28 inches tall — pretty much the exact same!

Annabelle is wearing 9-12 month clothes and size 2 shoes. She has tiny feet and hands just like Emma did, but a big noggin!
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Eating

As of 9 months, Annabelle has figured out how to drink with a straw and bite down on a sippy cup so there is hope for weaning her someday! I plan to keep nursing until at least a year, probably even longer. I think 18 months is my cutoff point though.
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But before I can wean her, Annabelle needs to start eating a lot more solid foods! Ever since Thanksgiving when she got a stomach bug and we backed off the solid foods for a while, she has wanted nothing to do with them. She’ll eat a teething wafer here and there but refuses yogurt now and only tolerates a few bites of other purees she’s previously liked. Now that the holiday mayhem has died down, I’m going to focus on giving her more variety to see if she likes something else.

Annabelle did get two new teeth this month, so that brings her up to six! She got one on top and one on bottom to the left of the middle ones (when you’re looking at her). I would think that the right-side ones wouldn’t be far behind but who knows.
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Sleeping

Because of teething, that stomach bug and a nasty, crudy cold with horrible cough and congestion, this past month has been the worst nighttime sleep of Annabelle’s life for both me and her. Most nights, she’s been up 2-3 times. Some nights, it’s been 4 or more. Thankfully, I can just nurse her for 15-20 minutes and put her back down but it’s still hard having my sleep interrupted that many times. Unfortunately, the week of Christmas when we were down in Rochester was the worst week of all. Annabelle had a horrible hacking cough and couldn’t go more than an hour at a time between fits. And Emma had a cold that triggered her (what we think is) asthma. And Travis was wheezing and sneezing from his cat allergies (even though my parents haven’t had cats for years and got their ducts cleaned). And we were all in one room. It was awesome. So needless to say, I would appreciate a break from sickness and teething!
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On the bright side, Annabelle decided on her own that she was ready for the crib. A few nights when she was really congested, she took a couple hours to get down for the night and fussed whenever we put her in her swing. So finally, out of options, we put her in the crib and let her cry for 10 minutes. (I generally don’t do “cry it out” when they’re sick but we didn’t know what else to do.) She fell asleep and slept in there the whole night! And the rest was history. I am floored by how easy that transition was. We still do use the vibration pad in a pinch because it really helps lull her to sleep but even that isn’t a necessity like it once was! We did have to order a new one though because she burned out both the vibration on her swing and a vibration pad.

One benefit of Annabelle being sick this past month has been all the baby snuggles. Travis and I both (but him more than me) have gotten to rock Annabelle to sleep — something she hasn’t let us do since she was a newborn! Travis has especially loved it because it just creates a bond.

No matter how poorly Annabelle sleeps though, she always wakes up happy and smiley. Nothing gets this sweet little girl down! (Except maybe bonking her head.)

She still takes two naps a day, for about an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
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Development

Annabelle still has no interest in crawling, scooting, moving, rolling, whatever. She loves the jumperoo still and enjoys sitting up to play with toys. But she does not like her belly and does not appreciate being put on her hands and knees. Annabelle still tips over a decent amount while sitting up so we make sure to put pillows behind her. She’s not pulling up on her own, and can’t really hold herself up in a standing position either (she’s steady if we help hold her up). Our pediatrician has recommended that we get her evaluated by the Paul Bunyan Education Coop (same organization that evaluated Emma for speech) for delay in gross motor skills so we might do that. It’s free, they come to our house and we’ve had a good experience with Emma’s speech therapy.
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At 9 months, Annabelle’s favorite things to play with are:

* Things that fit nicely in her mouth for chewing on, like spatulas and teething rings, made of silicone, rubber, plastic or metal (so, everything)

* Things that crinkle or jingle, like plastic or metal keys on a ring or chain — she likes to slap them against her leg to make noise

* Sippy cups filled with water (mostly just for chewing on)

* Anything that looks interesting and not like a toy, including paper, phones, baskets, boxes, straws, food containers and lids, tablecloths, glasses, plates with food on them (not interested in eating it though), and pens. You can’t leave anything within 2 feet of her or she will grab it!

Annabelle is very tolerant of other people holding her but if she’s tired or hungry, she wants mommy. Several times, she’s been mildly fussy while others are watching her but once she spots me, she loses it. She has also started reaching/lifting her arms for me to pick her up.
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Other things that happened this past month:

* Annabelle’s second trip via airplane, this time to Denver
* Annabelle’s first Christmas!
* Annabelle seeing and feeling snow for the first time (not a huge fan) and taking her first sled ride around the yard (no pic, Mommy fail)
* Annabelle started using consonant noises and said “mama” as her first word! She got on a roll for a while but then stopped. Now she says “dada” a lot.

And that’s Annabelle at 9 months!

2015 Recap

7 Jan

Last January, I said that I had two specific goals:

  1. Give birth.
  2. Start and finish the Northwoods Triathlon on August 8.

Check and check.

The other, less specific goals I mentioned (and an update):

  • Don’t let newborn sleep deprivation turn me into a raging b!t@h. (Trust God to provide sleep.) I have dealt with this much better!
  • Pray for and see my mom be healed. Still praying!
  • Spend more time playing with Emma instead of getting stuff done. Still struggle with this. Some days are better than others.
  • Support my husband more sacrificially and selflessly. Uff da. This is an area where I need to grow but I have had some victories this year!
  • Read more books and watch less TV. Currently sucked into Gilmore Girls, but I’ll be done with the last season soon and then I’m cutting myself off!
  • Go on bike rides in the summer. I biked during triathlon training, but that was it. We plan to get a bike trailer this summer and go on family rides!
  • Be more intentional about inviting people over, or getting together. I get together with friends for play dates on a regular basis, but we still would like to have families over for dinner more often.
  • Finish my book and either self-publish, or seek publication! Book is nowhere near finished. It is SO hard to find the time and energy!

Goals aside, this past year was challenging because of Travis’ working so much and my mom’s health situation. But it was also filled with lots of fun memories. I went through my phone and here’s a smattering of the Best of 2015.

2016-01-05_12.47.47(From top to bottom, left to right) 1) Pregnant! Due April 8. 2) Fun painting with Emma 3) It’s a girl! Annabelle was born on March 27. 4) Big sister + little sister. 5) New swingset from Nana Beth and Papa Al! 6) Spring’s in bloom! 7) Nana Sheri & Annabelle — we spent several weeks down in Rochester during the summer when Travis was traveling for work. 8) Emma at my parents’ cabin throwing rocks into the lake off the dock. 9) Kriswold family reunion at our place.

2016-01-05_12.52.271) Emma feeding a deer at Paul Bunyan Animal Land. We also went to the Safari North and Pine Grove Zoos. 2) Emma “painting” with yogurt all over the deck and sliding glass door. What a mess! 3) Annabelle’s faux hawk in full force! 4) At the beach, boy! 5) Emma holding baby on her lap. 6) We re-landscaped the planter in our driveway. 6) Lots of chalk drawing happened this summer. Other daily outdoor activities were playing outside on the dock by the river, picking wild raspberries on our property, pushing Emma down a small hill in her wagon or Little Tikes truck, and walking or riding her trike down the driveway to get the mail. 7) Sweet baby. Love this picture of her. 8) Emma taking her baby for a walk with no pants on.2016-01-05_12.56.301) Aftermath of the devastating storm in July. Picture taken just north of us a few miles. 2) I took Emma and baby to the St. Mathias corn maze by myself. One word: stressful. 3) During our trip to Evansville, we went to another corn maze / pumpkin patch. Almost lost Emma in a minion-shaped corn field. 4) Beautiful fall colors right in our yard! 5) Baby feet are the cutest. 6) Fall fun in the leaves! 7) Selfie of me and baby on our dock, enjoying the fall colors on the river. 8) One of Emma’s crazy outfits. 9) Dressed up as a fairy, 80s girl and Snow White at Pillager Fall Fest.2016-01-05_12.59.181) Annabelle sitting up in the cart for the first time! 2) Emma wearing stick-on earrings and the cutest top knot ever. 3) Sister love at Costco. 4) Family trip to Cabela’s in Rogers to buy daddy a muzzleloader. 5) Baby’s first Thanksgiving! Too bad it was followed by the stomach flu. 6) Diana’s bridal shower in Grand Rapids. 7) Snowman! 8) Annabelle’s first Christmas. 9) Travis’ and my trip to Denver for his work Christmas party.

Other things worth mentioning:

* Memorial Day was spent up at Travis’ parents’ cabin on Lake Namakan. The Fourth of July and Labor Day were both spent down at my parents’ cabin in Pine City. For the Fourth, Al, Beth, Matthew, Diana and Chris joined us too. Thanksgiving was spent up in Nevis with Trav’s family and Christmas was down in Rochester with my family.

* The girls and I played at the beach well over 2 dozen times, including several evening trips with daddy or by ourselves while daddy had Bible study. Annabelle went swimming a handful of times and almost always fell asleep in her carseat at the beach after I changed her into dry clothes.

* Emma loves dancing so we had many a dance party in the basement (many of them were with daddy while mommy was at Bible study).

* Other fun things we did (not caught on camera) were go to the Mall of America, Children’s Museum, Crosby Project Play, Family Fun Center waterpark in Nisswa and Timberlake Lodge waterpark in Grand Rapids.

The more specific things for each girl are captured in their monthly or quarterly updates (coming soon!). These are just the big picture things that I want to remember later.

Even though I mentioned that I’m not making any resolutions or goals this year specifically, I still am praying for and focusing on all the things I had mentioned last year, plus one other main thing: managing my time wisely. I’m going to do a separate post about that soon.

So that’s it for 2015!

Diana’s Bridal Shower

4 Jan

Travis’ brother Matthew got married this past Friday, on New Year’s Day! His new wife, Diana, is awesome. We’re all completely pumped that she’s now officially part of the Kluthe clan.

Travis’ mom, sister and I threw Diana a bridal shower the Saturday after Thanksgiving up in Grand Rapids, MN, at her parents’ house. Their wedding colors were black and gold, so we coordinated with a gold, white and light pink theme for the shower. We were so happy with how everything turned out — thank you Pinterest for all the ideas! It was a special day for a special bride.
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For the centerpieces, we took three different sized wine glasses, adhered gold glitter to the rims using (washable!) clear Karo syrup and a pastry brush, and filled them with white sugar, pink crystals (found in the wedding aisle of Hobby Lobby) and votive candles. The gold glass plates and the paperware were all from Hobby Lobby too.

The shower favors were cross-cuts of a birch tree that had fallen in our yard which we made into Christmas ornaments, with sparkly gold heart stickers on the front and “Diana & Matthew 1-1-16” on the back in gold marker.
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The vases were mason jars that I taped off and glitterized using mod podge.
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For food, we had croissants with ham/turkey and cheese, veggies & dip, deviled eggs, strawberry cheesecake salad, fruit kabobs, mints and nuts. We also has punch and coffee to drink.
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Carolyn made the awesome cupcake dress. Beautiful AND delicious!
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Christmas Thoughts: On Memories

22 Dec

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Some of the best memories I have from my childhood are from the Christmas season.

I went to a Lutheran school through 8th grade and each year, the school put on a Christmas program. Each class spent hours rehearsing songs and a verse to recite. Finally, the big night arrived. It was exciting to see my classmates arrive in our classroom, outside the context of class, all dressed up in their Christmas outfits and dresses. We marched into the packed gym single file and each sat in the chair we had been assigned several weeks earlier. For the first time, we saw the whole program come together with lights, acting and music — and we each did our part to make it magical.

On Christmas Eve, my parents, three brothers and I ate a special dinner, the highlight of which was almost always meat fondue. We each had our two color-coded skewers and we drank “cold duck” (sparkling juice) in the wine glasses with the gold rims and berry garland that we had accumulated with copious trips to Arby’s.

After dinner, we opened presents in the living room by the Christmas tree decorated with white lights and handmade, memory-filled ornaments. A model train encircled the bottom of the tree, whirring quietly past the dimly lit ceramic houses of Dickens Village. I don’t remember the gifts, or even what I wanted, but I remember being together.

After presents, we went to the 10 o’clock candlelight service at church. The snow and cold at such a late hour made the trek brutal, but none of us ever questioned it — because it was just what we did. The hall of the Sunday school rooms was lined with winter jackets, their arms stuffed with hats and mittens, and small puddles of melting snow as the women and kids exchanged snow boots for dress shoes, and the men removed their rubbers.

Most years, at least a few of us couldn’t help dozing off during the service because of the late hour and comforting atmosphere, but once they started lighting our individual candles, row by row, in anticipation of the last song “O Holy Night”, we shrugged off our sleepiness and sat up straight. We lifted our voices with the words of the classic hymn as the glow of hundreds of candles flickered on the red brick walls and stained glass windows.

Christmas Day, we often got together with my mom’s brother and his family who lived in our town. Sometimes we went to a movie, sometimes we just hung out with us kids playing.

After that, we drove up to my grandparents’ house in Ada, Minnesota. We always arrived at night but we still stumbled out of our conversion van half-awake to sit at the kitchen table for cookies. Grandma Dee always had cookies — Captain Crunch cereal and marshmallows covered in almond bark and peanut butter, and “macaroons” (the no-bake cookies made with cocoa) were our favorites. And in the morning, oh man, we ate slices of homemade cinnamon bread and strawberry jam. There was nothing else quite like it.

Being the only girl, I was spoiled with my own bedroom while my brothers had to fight over a single couch and the floor of the living room. My room had a single twin bed and a fiber-optic flower that slowly faded from one color to another, working its way through the rainbow.

Many years, for the Christmas celebration with my dad’s parents, I put together a short Christmas program that included readings from the gospel of Luke and a handful of my favorite Christmas hymns. Together, we focused on the true meaning of Christmas before opening presents.

The rest of our stay at Grandma Dee and Grandpa Norman’s house was spent playing video games, Rook and 3-13, pool tournaments on the table they had in their basement (until they replaced it with a ping-pong table after the flood), and hide and seek with a wheeple. My grandma also had a box of old clip-on earrings that I loved to play with.
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At some point, we’d head over to my mom’s parents’ house in Hendrum to spend the day with them. My cousins from Rochester were often there and the minute we arrived, we’d race out of the van and bolt for “The Fort,” a small closet located in the wall on the second flight of stairs from the main level to upstairs. You could lock it from the inside, so whoever got there first could control who entered, and who didn’t. And you could only fit about 3 of us kids in there at a time so it was an elite group.

Those of us not in The Fort amused ourselves by playing card games and spying on the people down on the main level through a hole in the upstairs bedroom floor, meant for allowing heat to travel from there up into the room.

I don’t remember opening gifts there. That’s not to say we didn’t — I’m sure some gifts were exchanged. But it was never the focus — more of an afterthought. What mattered was being together.

All of my grandparents are gone now, and have been for several years. And with me and my brothers having spouses and our own children, Christmas looks quite a bit different than it used to. But we’re still making memories together, and I hope that my girls will look back one day and have just as many wonderful memories of Christmastime as I do.