Resolution time! Oh boy, first ... accountability for 2014. Here are links to last year's resolutions in case you really care to see (post 1 and post 2). Um, it was lousy. At least if we are going by a strict, did I do these to 100% standard of accountability. In my defense, this past year involved a new baby, a failed adoption, a job change, selling a house, buying a new house, and remodeling. So, yeah, it was a crazy year. So here is what I want to say about accountability for my 2014 resolutions: they helped me do better than I otherwise would have. No, I didn't read scriptures every single day. But I did read the entire Book of Mormon this year and quite a lot of the Old Testament, too. And while we didn't do FHE every week, we did it WAY more than ever before and on a pretty consistent basis to the point here I honestly think we can achieve a goal of weekly FHE for 2015. I read quite a few really excellent books but I didn't keep track very well so I can't say for sure whether I met my 2-books-a-month goal. My guess is that I was close but not quite there. We did lots of date nights and special family outings so I'm going to say that we accomplished those goals. Anyhoosier, enough about 2014. Let's move on to 2015 resolutions.
So, first off, I want to say that these resolutions are not about overhauling my life. I don't want a life-makeover at this point or anything. Most of these are more about tweaking and refining some practices that I am already working on. Not that I am saying I am so great or anything: I just don't think making unrealistic goals that I have very little hope of achieving is going to do me a heck of a lot of good at this point in my life.
* Go the temple quarterly. I would love to say monthly, but, well, let's just say I'm hoping to take an underpromise and overdeliver approach to this goal.
* Daily scripture study. Yes, daily. I really, really want to get that one down.
* Weekly FHE.
* I think I've got the exercising 3+ times a week thing down pretty well. But it is always in the gym. So I want to set a resolution to get some exercise outdoors at least once a week. It doesn't even have to be a workout. I want to do Saturday morning runs outside some weekend or going for family walks in the evenings now that Clara has got some speed under her using her scooter or go hiking or play tennis or something.
* Lose weight. I'm not going to be more specific about this on the blog.
* Look into braces. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be my smile. Its super embarrassing to admit, but totally true. This has a significant financial aspect to it that might make it a non-starter from the get-go, but I'm hoping 2015 is the year to get going on this.
* Date night with Paul 2x/month (or more - hopefully more, since we love date nights). We are hoping to do more of these in SF and try out some of the amazing restaurants there. We have had a bunch of recommendations from friends and are excited about this one. It is so easy to get so caught up with parenting and work and life and forget to set time aside for each other without any distractions (not that I think of the girls as distractions, but you know what I mean) and it is important to us to maintain and nurture our marriage by taking time for the two of us to connect in a meaningful way.
* Travel outside the U.S. with the girls. This has been on my resolutions list for years, really, and hasn't happened yet. But because of that we have got some decent travel rewards accrued AND if we are going to do this it would be nice to do before Rose turns 2 and we have to pay for her airfare also, so maybe 2015 is the year to make this happen.
* Remodel the kitchen, living, and family rooms.
* Read at least one book each month, maybe two. And read a variety of literature - something classic, some non-fiction, a play, YA, etc.
* Find other avenues to expand my mind and talents - practice the piano more, listen to podcasts, try something new (I learned to do handstands in 2014 and LOVED it), learn to make panna cotta, go skiing, see play, swim in the ocean, etc. I know this goal is way underdeveloped and loosey-goosey, but I want to keep it flexible while I am figuring it out and seeing what I can do while maintaining other priorities and taking care of my little family. I like how this approach worked in 2014 because it opened me up to new possibilities of things that I otherwise might now have done, like performing in the Nutcracker.
* Get more sleep. Seriously, I need to focus on this goal. I need start going to bed before 11:00 on a regular basis (10:00 is the goal). In order to do this, I have a couple of other sub-goals that need to happen - watch less tv, do dishes, laundry, living room clean up earlier in the evening so I don't end up staying up late to clean the kitchen/laundry/living room because it is driving me bonkers.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
We went to Utah for Christmas again this year. Thankfully the roads were clear and this was our first time doing the drive in the our Odyssey and with Rose. We were both dreading it because we didn't know how well Rose would do since she is not a huge fan of car rides in the first place, but overall it went pretty much as good as we could have hoped. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. and were away by probably 4:30, and while the girls didn't immediately fall back asleep, they sat quietly looking at the lights flash past outside for a while, then finally nodded off and slept until probably 8:00, which was right about the time we were pulling into Reno. So we stopped for breakfast, gas, and a bit of a stretch for everybody. The rest of the way the girls snacked, played with toys, looked at books, and watched movies, although Rose did take a good nap somewhere across Nevada. Really, we only had maybe 30 minutes of serious fussiness out of Rose but she never started crying, so all in all the drive went well.
We spent the first couple of days of the trip at my parents' house in Farmington. We baked Christmas cookies, did a little bit of shopping, and took the girls swimming at the Bountiful rec center (its a tradition now, I guess, since we have gone the past three years). The biggest thing that happened at my parents' house was that Rose legitimately, officially started walking. Like, from one side of the room to the other side of the room walking. It was very exciting. I also finished reading "The Boys in the Boat" (which I loved - my favorite book of 2014) and started reading "A Town Like Alice" (also a wonderful book - thanks Brooke and mom for the recommendation!). Paul and I went and got pedicures (another Christmas tradition) while my mom watched the girls one morning. Then we headed down to Alpine on Christmas Eve to stay with Paul's family.
The girls woke up around 7:00-ish on Christmas morning and we all played downstairs before going to the living room to see the things that Santa had brought. Dave and Deborah were there too with their boys, Colton & Graham, and it was so cute to see how well Clara and Colton played together this year. It is really the first time that they have really interacted and truly played with each other instead of just by each other. Rose showed off her newfound walking skills.
We have such a hard time scaling things back, even though we talk about this every year. Our plan for next year is just three things per girl. Hopefully we can stay committed to that and not get carried away. Rose got a vTech car track, an owl puppet that she fell in love with at Yosemite, a book about colors and shapes, a Leap Frog phone (it has been a huge hit with her - definitely her favorite gift), and a rocking bunny (from Pottery Barn Kids - I agonized over whether to do this because it was expensive but majorly lucked out and got it for half off and both she and Clara really love it).
Clara got puzzles, stamps, books, colored pencils, dress up clothes (ballerina, witch, Native American, and princess), a mermaid doll (easily her favorite gift), Dusty Crophopper plane, and yes, an Elsa doll. But after hugging the box with the Elsa doll, Clara never asked us to open it and didn't give it another glance the rest of the trip because she was so enamored with her mermaid doll (which I KNEW would be the case because I know Clara and her tastes and what she really loves) and since she already had so much stuff and we knew she wouldn't even notice, we took the Elsa doll back to the store (at Paul's suggestion) and Clara is none the wiser. The mermaid, on the other hand, has hardly been out of her grip since Christmas morning. While driving home from Utah we looked back to notice Clara tenderly rocking the mermaid in her arms while humming softly to her and stroking her hair. When Clara noticed us watching her she gave us a small, perfectly contented smile and Paul and I high-fived for nailing the Santa thing with that little doll.
We had also wrapped a couple of things for Clara from us, including an Elsa nightgown (it was a solution to the whole Elsa thing - a nightgown meant she could dress up in it but we could also rationalize with her that she couldn't wear it all day each and every day since it was primarily for sleeping in, not wearing to preschool and stores and such) and a purple winter coat. The nightgown was easily Clara's other favorite gift and she wore it all day long on Christmas and every night since. Really, the nightgown was probably a more comfortable solution for her too since it has short sleeves and most of the costume options were long sleeved.
The girls also got goldfish crackers, jellybeans, and gummy bears in their stockings, which is huge because those aren't normal things we keep around our house.
After taking our time on Santa presents, everybody eventually started opening up gifts that we exchanged with each other. Between Paul's family on Christmas Day and my family the day after, we were very spoiled. The girls got lots of new books, new clothes, a tiny rocking chair for Rose (another major hit), a purple camelback for hiking and a scooter for Clara (she has already got that thing figured out and is flying on it when we go for walks). Paul and I got lots of new clothes (much needed and much appreciated), shoes (both running and flats for me!), a soundbar for our entertainment system, and a gorgeous new set of 12 steak knives to replace the sad, sad, sad ones (four of them) that we have hobbled along with for our entire marriage.
Clara also got this sweet teddy bear from Kayli and ladybug bag from Kayli's family in Texas, which is right up her alley.
And after all the presents were unwrapped the girls were in heaven when Grandpa Nash brought in the kittens. They got them a few months ago as a way of dealing with a mice problem and told Clara about them when they were out visiting for Yosemite. Clara has been dying to get to Utah to see Mittens and Midnight and they did not disappoint. She carried those kittens around the house like a pro. Rose was pretty interested too.
The day after Christmas we packed up and headed back to my parents house for the afternoon. We opened more presents and had a delicious dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu that my mom made, then Jennie, Ryan H., Jessica, Paul and I went to see "Into the Woods". We headed home the next morning, which was a day earlier than we had wanted to but with the weather forecast we didn't want to have to drive in snow the next day. The girls did just as well on the drive back.
It has been a lovely holiday season over this past month. But I always feel ready to move on by the time Christmas is done. It is so nice to have taken down all our ornaments and packed everything away until next year. But I have one last thing about Christmas to share ... a little video compilation from some of the things we did this year set to one of my very favorite Christmas songs. Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
It is unreal that Rose is 11 months old and in less than a month we will celebrate her first birthday. She is such a light in our lives and fills our days with smiles and giggles and fun. The biggest development for Rose in the past month has been her independent standing and first tentative steps. It was almost like she woke up one morning about a week or so after turning 10 months old and just made up her mind that she was going to really start learning how to walk. She has been practicing ever since, usually in the evenings when Paul got home from work and she could walk 4 or 5 steps between us while we clapped and coaxed and encouraged her to keep trying. But I would say that it was really 2 days ago, on December 22nd (so about a week past her 11-month anniversary - this post is way behind schedule) that she really became a walker. She just up and started going from the couch on one side of the living room to the chairs on the opposite side of the room or following Paul around while he held a big white teddy bar up just out of her grasp (she thinks this is the best game ever and smiles and giggles while she haltingly takes step after step after that bear). And when she would start losing her balance she would check and steady herself, then get her momentum going again. Or if she plopped down she would try to stand back up. So I'm calling it and saying that we have a walker now.
Another notable development is that we started transitioning Rose to whole milk instead of baby formula and she is doing great with that. In fact, we are now on our last container of formula and don't plan to buy any more because of how well she is doing with whole milk. The same goes for baby food - as we introduced more and more table food to Rose she started showing a strong preference for it until she was pretty much refusing any baby food so we have just phased that out and haven't bought any more. I think I have a couple of squeezy pouches left for emergencies in the bottom of the diaper bag, but that's it. And so far Rose is a pretty good little eater. Easily her favorite food is raspberries or strawberries. But she also eats cheese, breads (muffins, pretzels, crackers, toast, rolls, pasta, etc.), peas and edamame, and meat (chicken, ham, salmon, and beef) well too. And it is so nice for me because now I can pretty much get her set up with tiny bites of food and she is happy to sit in her high chair and feed herself. But this also ushers us into the era of food being thrown on the floor whenever she is done or gets bored with the current offering.
Rose is such a snuggler. Whenever Paul gets home from work and Rose is still awake (something that is hit or miss with her since she is usually more than happy to go to bed at 6:00 p.m. every night) she makes a beeline for him and immediately starts patting his back with her chubby little hands in an affectionate way as soon as he picks her up. And she loves cuddling right in and being rocked just before or after naps or bedtime while I give her a bottle. She lays her head on my shoulder whenever she is tired and sort of hums and drowsy little hum. And speaking of humming, Rose is quite the little singer and gets very vocal whenever there are songs playing in the car or at church.
Rose has 8 teeth now that are all the way in and those teeth, combined with her general size and newfound walking ability make her seem like a toddler and not a baby anymore. The other week Rose was practicing her standing while in the bathtub (this is a constant situation and soooo frustrating) and slipped and hit her tooth against the side of the tub. It chipped one of her front little teeth - not much and she was totally fine a moment later, but my immediate thought was "oh dear, you are going to have that little chipped tooth for 5 or 6 years now!".
Rose adores her big sister and loves to play with (and sometimes torment) her. Rose often follows Clara around trying to get whatever Clara has, which Clara is sometimes good about and other times gets really cranky about because she doesn't want Rose sucking on Baby Zebra (a constant worry for Clara who has taken to placing Zebra up on her bed or on a table where Rose can't reach her). It has been amazing watching a relationship develop between the two of them and every night when Rose is going to bed Clara gives her the sweetest kisses and hugs and Rose has started to reciprocate.
I can hardly believe there is only one more of these monthly posts to go! It is seriously mind boggling to me that Rose is almost a year old already. Gosh we love this little girl.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
I was trying to get a photo of the girls wearing this Santa hat and reindeer antlers in front of the Christmas tree. But Rose was not having it. The above photo was the best I got. But most of them honestly looked more like the one below. Rose was not at all happy that I was making her wear the Santa hat.
Clara had such an early morning the other day. She woke up at 4:30 or something crazy like that and would not go back to sleep. I don't have any idea what was going on. Finally I took her out front and turned the Christmas tree on and just started telling her stories. Then I had the brilliant idea to recreate a scene from the Nutcracker where Clara goes to sleep under the Christmas tree. She jumped at the idea and within 2 minutes had crashed beneath the tree and I was finally able to transfer her back to her bed. But not after taking photos of her.
We have all really enjoyed our tree this year. It was maybe the most beautiful one we have ever had - maybe because we have taller ceilings in our new house and could have a taller tree. The girls have been very good about leaving the decorations and lights on too, which was nice. One night at dinner I turned all the lights off except for the tree lights and some candles, which we ate our dinner by. Then we just listened to Christmas music and played under the tree for the rest of the evening until bedtime. The girls loved it and I had fun taking way too many photos of the magic.
I finally let Rose play with one of the ornaments just to keep her attention a little focused because in the low lighting I needed her to hold still a little more so not all of my photos were blurry.
Poor baby also has a bit of a cold (Clara and I have both caught it since) so her nose has been running like crazy. But I can't help but love this picture of her sticking her little tongue out because she does this so often.
Last year my Aunt Renita took note of my admiration of her Christmas countdown which is a darling rocking horse/Santa's workshop and she hunted one down for me. Clara has been enjoying opening the boxes and finding a new ornament (and sometimes a special treat) each day this month.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Many of these things I have already mentioned on Instagram, so sorry if you follow me there and have already seen these but I thought I would pull them together here for the blog, which is my more official record anyway.
A couple weeks ago we took the girls out to breakfast at Panera Bread in their Christmas PJs (we gave them a "December Box" this year on the 1st with new coloring books, pajamas, candy cane gum, etc. to enjoy all month long). We didn't realize while ordering that Clara was trying to convince us to buy her this "mitten" cookie. I somehow thought she was talking about Paul's parents' new cat, Mittens. Anyway, once I finally spotted the mitten-shaped sugar cookies that she had been eyeing, we had already paid. But a sweet woman in line behind us offered to buy it for Clara. I tried to decline and was even going to buy it for Clara myself, but the kind lady said that she didn't have anybody else to buy one for and to please let her, so we did. Clara was thrilled.
Rose was just happy to have a straw to play with.
Paul took Clara shopping for a present for Rose from Clara. He made a cardinal mistake when he let Clara walk past the display of "Frozen" merchandise. I will literally go all the way around a store to avoid such displays. He sent me this picture of Clara clutching an Elsa doll and it was definitely not a good sign. Especially since the "Frozen"-mania had really tapered off around here (thank goodness) and an Elsa doll wasn't even on her radar as far as Christmas things go. In fact, Clara doesn't even really play with dolls (other than Baby Zebra) and for quite some time all she had cared about for Christmas was dress-up clothes (I am constantly harangued about dressing up so I know for a fact that this is what she really, truly wants), which is what she is getting for Christmas. So now this whole Else-doll business and resurgence of "Frozen" is most unwelcome. I know its just a dumb doll and that I am being a total helicopter parent and that I can be accused of overthinking everything, but Clara is at such an influential stage and it is like her opinions and tastes and interests are taking form before my very eyes and I just don't feel like an overexposure to Disney princess merchandise is beneficial at this time for her. I know she is only 3 1/2 but trust me, her opinions of beauty are already forming and I feel like Elsa is just not a great example on many levels. And while I have no problem with Clara watching the movie (or other Disney princess movies), I just don't want her to fixate on them too much (something she has already shown a tendency for) and so I try really hard to expose her to other role models through books ("Rosie Revere, Engineer" about a girl engineer is a favorite) or other shows ("Peg + Cat" about a math-loving little girl is big for us) or dynamic play where she can imagine her own characters and I feel like a lot of my parenting efforts are thwarted and undermined by this kind of merchandise.
Anyway, enough of my soap box. After prying Clara away from the "Frozen" section, Paul kept texting me some of Clara's other finds that she would say Rose would love, including a giant crayon bank (purple, naturally) and a car that Clara could drive her around in.
I helped Clara write a letter to Santa. Dress-up clothes have gone out the window after the Elsa debacle but she's getting them anyway. She signed her own name and traced the letters for "Santa".
We have been enjoying quite a bit of rain lately and the girls have liked having the Christmas tree lights on in the mornings while I make breakfast ready. They play pretty well in there together while I get the food together.
We made sugar cookies one day when the rain was particularly heavy and we didn't want to leave the house. Clara offered Rose a much too large piece of cookie dough and before I could get it away from her Rose had devoured it. She definitely understands when she is not supposed to have something and does whatever she can to keep it, including wolfing down ridiculous amounts of cookie dough scraps given to her by a helpful older sister. And you should have seen the mad dash Rose made when I dropped a couple of M&Ms on the floor later on when we were doing the decorating. The look of triumph in her eyes when she popped that stray green M&M into her round little mouth had me cracking up and she hollered her discontent when I got to the other loose candies and swept them up before she could get at them.
Clara's frosting skills are certainly improving and she was very proud to tell me how her cookies looked so beautiful with all the sprinkles she was putting on them. And as gross as I know they are in theory, I have to admit that I have an embarrassing love for those little sugar crystals on sugar cookies. The crunchy texture on the soft cookie is just perfection to me.
One day instead of dressing up like mermaids (a favorite theme of Clara's) she wanted to dress up as Mary (we've been reading lots of books about the nativity). I pulled out my scarves and she had a ball and wore them all day long.
But then at the ward Christmas party she was a little bugged that she didn't get to be Mary and was instead assigned to be a shepherdess. She warmed up to it eventually though when she realized how long and flowy her shepherdess headpiece was. At the end all the kids bowed and Clara was beaming.
So far it is has been a very eventful and fun Christmas season.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Photo credit: not mine - I stole it from the Niles Canyon Railway Facebook page. The experience is every bit as magical as this picture makes it look.
Back in October or early November I randomly picked up a "Bay Area Parent" magazine that was lying around at Clara's gymnastics gym and noticed an article about Christmas trains in the Bay Area. The reviews for the Niles Canyon Train of Lights sounded really good so when I got home I checked availability and was able to snag tickets on a 4:30 p.m. departure from the Fremont station even though most of them were already sold out. Unfortunately, Paul wasn't able to get off work early enough to join us (we plan to book earlier next year so we can do a Saturday instead of a Friday so we don't run into the same problem), but the girls and I had a wonderful time. It was seriously the most amazing, fun, immersive holiday experience I have had in ages. Each car has been renovated and is from a different era. They are all decked out in garlands and lights on the inside and there are lights and décor on the outside of the train as well. One car was probably from the 50's or 60's, the car we were in was probably from the early 1900's, some are outdoor cars with benches to sit on (you have to arrive early if you go with general seating like we did in order to make sure you get a seat on an indoor car, which is important since it can get really chilly).
Once we snagged our seats, we just left jackets and our backpack (with a picnic dinner) to reserve our spots and explored the train. Even when the train is moving the passengers are allowed to walk between the cars. There is a dining car where you can purchase hot chocolate or cookies or other snacks and there are tables and chairs set up to eat at. And I guess there are two special cars that you can pay extra to ride in where they have glass ceilings for better views and dinner is served, etc. Lots of people came in large family groups and you can tell that it is a tradition for many people to go together each year. Somebody in our car brought a mandolin and played carols the whole time, which was wonderful.
Walking through these narrow hallways and squeezing pass other passengers on the vintage cars made me feel like I had been transported back in time. I kept having visions of the train scenes from the movie "White Christmas" (my seasonal favorite) where they sing the song "Snow" and it made me a little giddy. The girls seemed to enjoy the atmosphere as well, especially on the first part of the ride when it was still light enough to have a nice view of the beautiful canyon we were going through and the bridges and creeks we crossed over. On the way back it was dark and they couldn't see, so they started getting a little more antsy, but overall they did great.
Santa Claus even paid a visit to each car, which was magical. He had plenty of time to visit with passengers and the girls were excited to see him again (we took pictures with him earlier in the week, so they had already "met" him once already). Sorry for the blurry pics but the train was moving and it was getting dark and I only brought my iPhone.
The conductors were all dressed up, too, and they were the sweetest old men who I think volunteer at the railroad (the Christmas train is their biggest fundraiser each year). They were very formal about helping people on and off the train and punching tickets and all. I asked to take a picture with one of them and he kindly obliged. Isn't he the cutest? Rose wanted his hat.
I seriously cannot say enough good about the Train of Lights and am already looking forward to going again next year with Paul and the girls (and any other friends who want to join us!).