Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back to work and Christmas prep

I feel like I have been a lazy blogger lately - relying entirely too much on photos of an adorable 6-month old to carry the blog and tell the whole story. It is just that I have felt super busy in these last few weeks as I have been getting things squared away for my return to work. I finished making books with all of the blog posts from this blog for the past three years using a service called Blurb that prints and binds the books. It wasn't as user friendly as I had hoped and ended up taking a long time, but I had a 25% off coupon and it was something I had been wanting to do for a long time so I am glad to have those ordered and on their way. My 2008-2009 book ended up at 214 pages and the 2010 book is 174 pages. It was interesting and fun to go back through all my old posts and pictures and see how our life has changed. I also have new insight on how to structure future blog posts to make it easier to put these books together for coming years. 

I ordered Christmas cards, addressed envelopes, and put them all in the mail, which is another time-consuming task but I like how the cards turned out and it is always so fun to receive cards (and pretty much anything other than bills) so I feel like it is worth it. Unfortunately, I got lazy and just skipped putting a return address on any of the cards before mailing them so if you don't get a card from us, it probably got lost and we won't know about it because it won't be returned to us. Oops.
I also finished our Christmas shopping, which is a huge relief. And it is not even December yet! Each year I get the insane notion that I should make Christmas presents for some person or other in my family. In the past I have made aprons for my mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, niece, and mother-in-law. I have also made pajamas and church bags for family members. And each year I take on one of these sewing projects I find myself regretting it because it inevitably takes way more time and energy than I anticipate and I get stressed out about it and say that I am just BUYING all the presents the next year. This year I had the genius idea of making stuffed elephants for each of my nieces and nephews and one for Clara too.
That is seven pachyderms. If we are going by my billable hour rate at my law firm, each of these elephants is worth well into the thousands of dollars. I love each of these little hooligans - Elizabeth and Emma and Robert and Colton and Lily and Vaughn (and of course Clara) - THAT much. What took so long was handstitching on each of the ears, saddles, and eyes. My fingertips are now callused and rough, but I am happy with the way each toy turned out even if I think Santa's elves have the worst job in the world.
Today was my first day back at work and I have to say that I really appreciate all of the kind texts and emails and prayers sent our way expressing support and encouragement and love. I did most of my crying yesterday afternoon and evening although I couldn't hold it together entirely this morning when I dropped Clara off at daycare. Somethings that have made going back to work more bearable for me:
  1. I have WAY more friends who went back to work at some point than friends who have always stayed home after having kids. In fact, I can only think of three people I know who stayed home and didn't go back to work at all. That doesn't exactly make me feel better but it eases some of my guilt and makes me feel less lonely. In some cases, it makes me feel a little ashamed of complaining in the first place since I had a much longer maternity leave than most women get anyway. Frankly, I am a little surprised at how gracious some of you have been when I have been expecting someone at some point to say "cry me a river!" with exasperation at my whining. (Incidentally, I have always been a HUGE whiner and it is one of those character flaws that I can't stand about myself but never seem to get around to fixing).
  2. I got a new chair at work that is ergonomically designed and SO much more comfortable than my old chair.
  3. I know it is not for forever. I keep telling myself that today I will leave by 4:00 and this week is only a three day week and then there are only a few weeks before Christmas (temple sealing! family! kayli! presents! non-stop fun!) and that even in January and February there are some long weekends and then before I know it the days will start getting longer and everything will start feeling better. I typically try not to live my life like that - wishing it away and focusing too much on the future instead of on the present - but for now it is helping me to get by.
  4. The cafe at work has great soups and sandwiches that I love...
  5. Clara is a GREAT baby with a sparkling personality and everybody adores her. She is smart and happy and will figure out that daycare isn't such a bad place and that mommy can't wait to see her every night. She will never grow up to remember the time when she was tiny where someone else watched her during the day and everybody says that it is much harder on the parents than it is on the child to have both parents working when they are young.
  6. I have some awesome audiobooks to listen to while I commute. Has anybody else read the Bloody Jack series yet? I am still on the first book (of 9 or 10) and I LOVE it. Plus, the narrator does the most amazing irish, welsh, british and pirate accents. Basically it is about an orphan girl in the late 1700's who cuts her hair short and becomes a shipsboy to live a life of adventure on the high seas. 
  7. The associates and partners at work seem geniunely excited to see me. Seriously, everybody has been so nice and enthusiastic to have me back and that makes me feel special. Granted, maybe the warmth of the welcome is due to the fact that there is now another person to take on projects, but I like to think it is because I have been missed for my clever wit and enchanting personality. 
  8. Paul is calm and collected when I am panicked and stressed. In fact, the more whacked out I act, the more he seems to like me, which is totally weird but sweet. He doesn't tell me to "suck it up princess" which is probably what I would say to myself if I were in his shoes. I've apologized to him in advance for any moments where I lose my temper in the upcoming weeks and I've warned him that he better take over his share of doing the dishes (which he did tonight even without me saying anything about it, bless him).
The only other thing of note around here is that we have all of our Christmas decorations up now.  I think that the tree looks very nice with all of our ornaments on it that we have collected from around the world.  I took these photos before we got Clara's name embroidered on her stocking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Tree Farm

The Friday after Thanksgiving, we drove up to the Santa Cruz mountains to get our Christmas tree.  We left around 9:30 and there were already cars heading down the mountain with trees loaded on top.  I think this is a tradition for a lot of folks in this area since there are so many Christmas tree farms to choose from and they are all so close by.  We had gorgeous weather again although we dressed in jackets and sweatshirts since the air was cool.

The views were stunning looking back over the reservoir and down into the San Jose valley.  This was maybe 15-20 minutes from our home and it is incredible to me that we can live in the tenth largest city in America and yet we can be up in these gorgeous mountains for hiking and camping within just minutes of leaving our house.  Clara, Paul and I look super matchy-matchy in these photos, but I didn't actually plan that this time. 

I don't think I have mentioned on here that Clara LOVES riding up on our shoulders.  She laughs and talks and kicks and has so much fun up there.  Then she starts grabbing at hair and sticking it in her mouth and we always end up with wet spots where she has sucked on our hair (so gross).  My dad carried her around like this for a lot of the morning.

I didn't realize until later that Paul was wearing his woodcutter shirt from the Little Red Riding Hood story.  He is so funny.

My parents are so cute and it has been fun to see them as grandparents, first with Emma and now with Clara and Lily.  My dad always says "hey cute girl" to Clara when he picks her up and my mom has a magic way of talking to little kids where they just think that she is the most interesting, fun person alive basically.

If I am totally honest, cutting down my own Christmas tree is not my favorite tradition.  I like being out in nature and all and everything smelled so good up there, but I sort of just feel super guilty sawing one of these living things down to take him, stick in my house for a month and toss it away.  For some reason, I feel less bad about the whole tradition when I just pick out a tree from Home Depot.  I guess I just like to let other people do my dirty work for me.  Plus, there were just SO MANY trees to choose from - hundreds all over the mountainside - and it was tough figuring out which would be a good one.  It stressed me out, especially since my personality and approach would be to look at every single tree, then go back to the very first one I had spotted and just take it whereas Paul's approach is to get out of the car and immediately set in asking me "how 'bout this one?" like it is time to get down to business and start sawing away.

We were just missing Jennie for this picture.  We wish that she could have come too, but she spent Thanksgiving with her husband's family in Idaho this year.

My dad cracks me up.  I think that he was joking that he was going to catch the tree and then when it actually started toppling he was in the way and had to put up his arms in surprise and holler in self-defense.

I would like to point out that Paul, my U of U law grad, is wearing a BYU hat here.  We all know where his true loyalties lie.  Also, my dad is a hip grandpa who wears his hat backwards.  I love that.

Clara with her Aunt Jessica.  It is SO much fun having her home from her mission.  She read a lot while she was out here and gave me some great book recommendations.  My dad took all of us to Barnes & Noble when he finished the novel he had brought with him and told me and Jessica to each pick out a book we wanted and he would buy it for us - I got the first Percy Jackson book at Jessica's recommendation and it is so good so far.  I have gotten used to listening to audiobooks while I drive and I needed the example of her and my dad sticking their noses in books to remind me how much I love it and how I come from a family of readers and lovers of literature.

We loaded the tree into the bed of Paul's truck.  I was surprised that it only cost $50 when we went to pay for it.  That doesn't seem like a bad price for a super fresh tree that we still had to cut shorter when we got home so that it would fit in our living room.

Paul put the lights on the tree the next night and Clara was pretty interested in them.  We have always done red Christmas lights because they are different and festive and it is what I grew up with, but I am sort of thinking about trying white lights next year, just for a change.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving dawned bright and glorious here in San Jose.  Paul spent the day putting up Christmas lights on the roof, cleaning the gutters, and doing other projects around the house.  I spent the morning in the kitchen making our Thanksgiving dinner.  Actually though, Paul put together the pumpkin pie and my mom put together the banana cream pie.  I just made the apple pie and the crusts for the other two, and Paul says that nobody eats the crusts anyway.  I also made the Lion House dinner rolls and the turkey using the recipe and tutorial from Our Best Bites.  As a special treat, Clara got to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  She was in heaven. 

Paul carved the turkey in one of my aprons.  This is actually the apron he has claimed for himself, it being the least ruffly of all my aprons.  He is hoping for a "man apron" for Christmas, whatever that is.

We had rolls with jam, green beans, mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Martinelli's, and fruit salad.  Clara ate her Thanksgiving dinner of a Turkey & Squash puree for lunch, and while everybody else was eating their dinner, she gnoshed on three chunks of boiled yam that I had reserved from the sweet potatoes before all the butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows were added.  She seemed to really love it and ate all three chunks with no problem.  It was so much fun having my parents and sister out here with us for the holiday.  They hadn't seen Clara since she was 3 months old and she has changed a lot since then so they especially liked being able to play with her.

Clara had been taking a nice long nap just prior to dinner.  We had actually just started sitting down to the table when she woke up so I went and got her.  This is how she looks right after waking up - happy and groggy.

I have got to do something with the wall behind me in this picture.  It is so barren and blah.  We had a canvas print made to go here but I want to get some white frames from Ikea and put additional family photos in them and make some sort of collage or something here, I just haven't done it yet.

Review of the dinner:  the turkey could have cooked a little longer because it was too moist in my opinion, even though the thermometer said it was done and the timer thing had popped up, but the flavor was amazing - must have been the sage butter and brining it for 24 hours in advance.  Stovetop stuffing is still my favorite, even though it isn't homemade.  Everyone else at the table admitted the same thing except my mom.  I love jellied cranberry sauce but Paul doesn't.  Paul discovered that after years of thinking he hated sweet potatoes that he actually liked these ones.  The green beans were excellent and the rolls turned out soft and buttery.  Overall, I would say that the meal was a success for my first time hosting Thanksgiving at our place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Clara Jane at 6 months old

I cannot believe how much she has grown in these last six months.  She is still our petite little miss but goodness gracious is she ever looking like a little girl with her hair that touches her shoulders and just generally being so much bigger than when I first held her in my arms!  Clara has been sleeping soundly through the night for almost a month now.  Usually she goes to sleep between 7:30 and 8:30 and doesn't wake up until about 6:30 to 7:00 the next morning.  Every now and then she will wake up at 4:00 a.m. and think it is time to play, but I just bring her into bed with me and Paul groggily throws his arm over both of us and we all fall back asleep together.  She always wakes up happy, whether it if from her night's sleep or any one of her daytime naps.  She goes to sleep happy too - I never have to let her cry herself to sleep because she when she starts rubbing her bleary eyes I know that she is ready even if she has been laughing like a maniac a couple seconds before. 

And speaking of her laughing - Clara-girl has decided that her parents are hilarious.  We get the best laughs out of her when we either blow raspberries on her tummy or when I do a humiliating Maori war dance for her while she is sitting in her high chair.  Her laugh is usually a kind of a bark or a chortle - like a burst of a "hah!" or "heh-heh" rather than a rolling continuous laugh. 

Clara kicks her feet like crazy when we get her ready for her bath or take her on walks outside.  She swats at her bottle, our faces and shoulders, or at spoonfuls of food.  She is a wonderful eater and likes pretty much everything except for beets.  I feed her solids two to three times per day and her favorite flavors seem to be the savory ones, especially the meat blends like Vegetable Beef or Chicken with Squash. 

Clara will do anything to watch the television if it is on.  She will arch her back and contort her body and watch upside down if she has to - as long as the tv is on and she is in the room, it is her number one priority in life to see what is on the screen.  It exasperates me because I am still maintaining my "no television for babies" stance.  Usually Paul and I just never turn the tv on until after she goes to bed, so it is not a huge deal though.

Clara's favorite toys are Dolly, ribbons or cords (if it even remotely resembles a cord she wants to put it in her mouth), her musical turtle, and her stacking cups.  She seems to enjoy being read to, but her favorite books seem to be the peek-a-boo type books, particularly a Thanksgiving peek-a-boo book about the first Thanksgiving.

Clara started crawling the day after she turned six months old officially.  She had been army crawling for a while before then, but now she is up on her hands and knees.  She is getting more and more adventurous each day and has followed me into the kitchen and ventured out into the hallway from one of the bedrooms when she got bored of playing with toys in there while I was curling my hair the other day. 

We just love her so much. 

Clara Jane Gets In The Christmas Spirit

Confession:  I am afraid that I may be a little more Scrooge than Santa when it comes to some of the things that get most people in the Christmas spirit.  Christmas music, for example, kind of drives me up the wall (except for classical music like the score for "The Nutcracker").  It gives me the heebie-jeebies that there are radio stations that play Christmas music non-stop for a month straight.  However, for some reason, this year I have been ridiculously excited for Christmas since the day after Halloween.  I can't even help myself.  Clara woke up from a nap on November 1st and as I was rocking her I suddenly found myself singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and dreaming about Christmases from my past.  What is it about a baby that brings back the Christmas magic that you thought you lost long ago? 

Anyway, I don't have any hard-and-fast opinions on when Christmas decorations should go up and when Christmas music should be played.  I figure the tree should go up when it is most convenient.  I remember decorating my parents tree just a day or two before Christmas in the past.  But this year little splashes of red or snippets of holiday melody have been popping up around our home for a while now and it is just the day after Thanksgiving.  I bought Clara three Christmas Books (Twas the Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Snowmen at Christmas) and have been reading them to her every day.

On Wednesday my parents and sister were driving into town.  While Paul was at work in the morning (he only worked until noon the day before Thanksgiving) and before my family arrived, I dressed Clara in her red velvet pants with cream-and-gold blouse that it dotted with red flowers and adorned with a red ribbon.  Then I stuck her reindeer antler headband on her little noggin' and took photos of her with her holiday friends (including baby Jesus from the Little People nativity set that Clara loves playing with - only you can't see baby Jesus as well in the photos because Clara kept chewing on kissing him). 

This has to be my new favorite photo of Paul and Clara together.  They just adore each other so much.  Her fancy pants are still a little too large for her so they kept slipping down when she crawled around and then she would end up standing on them like she is here.

My mom and sister were elated to see Clarabelle since the last time they saw her was when we were in Utah at the end of August when Clara was just 3 months old.

After my family unloaded their bags (and the bigger Christmas presents that they brought out with them since Paul and I won't be able to take them back on the plane with us in December) and we grabbed lunch at La Victoria Taqueria (my favorite), we headed over to the mall to take photos with Santa.  Unfortunately, Santa was out to lunch when we got there are 2:30 so we did a little browsing before we got in line.  I felt so bad because it was WAY past Clara's nap time and the poor thing was SO sleepy.  After we took the photos she just laid her wee head on my shoulder and rested with only an occasional kick of a leg compared to her typical churning heels she was that tired.

Clara liked looking at the Christmas ornaments while we were waiting in line.  I have a feeling that now that she can crawl that she is going to be making a beeline for our Christmas tree and yanking off any ornament she can reach.

My friend from church recommended that we go to the Santa at Oakridge Mall instead of the Santa at Valley Fair.  He was awesome.  He had actual ringlets in his beard, which was real.  He talked with Clara and was so friendly and kind.  I didn't see a single kid cry with him.  Paul stood outside the photo area and took pictures from behind the "no photography beyond this point" signs.  I'm glad he captured these images of Clara meeting Santa because she just gazed at him for a little bit before turning and posing for the camera with a dreamy look in her eye.

And here is her first official photo with Santa Claus. 

Let the Christmas season begin!