Monday, December 20, 2010

December musings... Cheers to a Happy New Year!

Hello again. Does it seem like this month has flown by for anyone else? I cannot believe that this month and year are so rapidly coming to an end. This will likely be my last post of the year. We are gearing up to visit our families over the holidays. As we close the chapter that is 2010, I have a few things to reflect on. First, I was miserable at accomplishing my resolutions from last year. I did not learn to knit cables, nor did I learn to cross country ski. I did join a book club online, but never went to a meeting! I did, however, take up snowshoeing. And, let's not forget- I did create human life! Ha! Resolutions - you've got nothing on me!

This month also marked an important milestone for Adam and me- our 10 year wedding anniversary. We can't help but feel awesome about that. Marriages get thrown away pretty easily anymore. Life throws curveballs and people change. I am so happy with the life that we have created together. It's truly great. Now with two little sidekicks, I imagine our next decade will be that much more interesting!

Finally, with January right around the corner, all of the magazines I subscribe to are sending their New Year's editions. The theme seems to be about happiness; how to be happy. January 1st- the official reset button: we evaluate our lives and make changes where we see fit. It seems funny to me that we all struggle with finding contentment. I seem to write an overly reflective post almost quarterly... Is it really that hard to just be happy? Apparently so, because I have 4 magazines in front of me that are dealing with this very question! I have been drawing my own conclusion over the past couple of years and it's simply that we should try and direct our energy to the people and things that we love. Unfortunately, everyday stressers can fuzzy up this point. So, for the sake of the happiness project- here are my 2011 resolutions that I think will make me enjoy life just a little bit more!

1. Run a 10k - (I'm too much of a chicken to write, "half-marathon")
2. Grow pumpkins in the garden
3. Learn a *successful* method for making gnocchi
4. Eat a more seasonal diet- which means embracing unfamiliar produce
5. Practice more patience, and maybe a little yoga too

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Life with Olivia at 5 months

Olivia is now 5 months old. Time continues to pass quickly. Yet, somehow, it feels like she has been in our family for much longer. It's becoming easier for me to fathom leaving the house with both kids by myself. We are still in the stage where we have to pack up the diaper bag with all the necessities. It's even more work now that the weather is cold. Big coats, hats, and mittens are required. But before I know it, the hats will come off and I will be back to just tucking a couple of diapers and a little baggie of wipes into my purse. I will be yelling at the kids to stop fighting in the back seat. So, for now, we enjoy our little peanut girl as a 5 month old.

She has gotten so much stronger. We have added an exersaucer and a Baby Jumperoo to the living room. Nothing like huge pieces of baby paraphernalia to give your home that extra something! Do you remember that post I wrote when we first moved here, about The Pottery Barn colliding with Toys R Us? What a joke! It's just crazytown here. And really, no amount of wicker baskets can save us! I do my best to keep things tidy, but to be honest, I don't even care anymore. I just want my kids to be happy and not crying. So, bounce away little girl! It's nice that she has things to entertain herself. And I have my Real Simple magazine to escape to... an organized world that seems very far away at the moment.

Over the last month, not much has changed with Liv. She continues to smile a lot and her giggles are more frequent. Gavin loves to make her laugh. It's nice that he loves her so much. When she cries, he says, "It's ok, Yidia. You're alright." It's so funny that he pronounces her name, "Yidia." I love to pick out funky outfits for her and give her a little style. Adam likes to tell her about how he intends to make her a tomboy. She is really cute with Adam, kind of flirty. When he smiles at her, she smiles but looks away really quickly, burying her face in my shoulder.

She now weighs 16 pounds and is getting all chunky. I like it when babies have a little bulk to them. She seems a lot less breakable now. I can carry her around on my hip, which makes things a little easier. Her sleeping patterns continue to be ridiculous and I don't see much point in discussing them. It is what it is. I know that she will give me 8 hours of sleep someday... when, I really don't know.

We are really looking forward to our trip home later this month. Can't wait to introduce her to family and friends. Until then, here are a couple of pictures.
Dressed up for a Thanksgiving party with friends

This rice cereal is still gross, even if you did add applesauce to it!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas in the City

New York City is exciting. It's a city that once you visit, you crave it. Last Monday, I woke up and felt that a weekend visit was in order. Adam agreed and we decided we'd take the kids to see Santa at Macys on 34th Street. Why not, right? You gotta do it! We had not been to the city during the holiday season and it was something we had on our list to do before we head back to the west coast. We knew it would be crowded and somewhat chaotic, but it's New York- 100% worth it.

Because we were just doing a day trip, we knew we could only have a couple of things on our itinerary. We wanted to see Santa and the tree at Rockefeller Center. It takes us forever to get out of the house for a day outing- two hours, exactly. By the time we got to the city, it was 1pm. We headed straight to Macys, and waited in line for an hour and a half. They organized it really well, so the line kept moving and made the time pass fairly quickly. Gavin was a bit of a pill, to be expected. It's a lot to ask of a little man. Once we got to Santaland, it proved to be worth the wait. There were beautiful displays set up with trains and snowmen. Signs that displayed the magic of the season, "Believe" and "Make a Wish." Gavin was a little unsure about Santa. He thought that Santa would give him his requested presents right then. He just couldn't understand why Santa wasn't handing over Zurg and Hammy (more Toy Story characters).

After visiting Santa, we headed out and walked up to Rockefeller Center. I have never seen the city streets so packed with people. It was a little crazy. But, as I read in an article, you have to just embrace the crowds and take in the holiday spirit or you will have a miserable time. Olivia was content in her stroller and Gavin was a trooper, walking all those blocks! The city looks beautiful with all the lights. The Rockefeller Christmas tree is stunning. The window displays at the department stores are truly spectacular. We took in the scene and then had dinner before heading home. It was a really fun day. I don't really know if Gavin will remember it, and Olivia certainly won't. But, as a parent and someone who just loves New York City, it was a special way to start off the holidays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grafton Lakes State Park

I have never thought of myself as a great outdoors type of gal. But, over the last couple of years, I have really taken to it. I find myself craving nature. I don't think this will graduate to any type of extreme sport. I don't see myself as a future rock climber or anything hardcore. I don't even think I could handle camping for more than a couple of nights. I like showers and beds. Give me a pleasant nature walk, any day. 

Last Saturday, I was itching to get outside. I had been wanting to check out another state park, so we decided to head over to Grafton Lakes State Park. It's about a 30 minute drive from Albany, located on a forested mountain ridge between the Taconic and Hudson valleys. There are 5 ponds and 25 miles of trails to explore. It was a really cold day, particularly with the windchill. Fortunately, there was some elevation-which means evergreen trees, to block the wind. It actually started to snow a little while we were out. 

Gavin is getting a little better about keeping up with us. He gets sidetracked easily so we didn't put much of a dent into those 25 miles of trails! Honestly, it's just nice to see him enjoy being outside. He loves to pick up things along the way, rocks and pinecones. He'll find branches to pick up and throw into the water. I can't wait until Olivia is able to run along with him. For now, she rides along in the baby carrier, tucked into Daddy's coat. We all had a fun time and look forward to visiting again with our snowshoes!
Long Pond, Grafton Lakes State Park
Walking along, singing Christmas carols
Olivia is in there somewhere, snug as a bug
Negotiating how many rocks can be thrown into the pond, before we get going on our hike
By the end, Gavin needed to be carried out. I am pretty sure he's going to be bigger than me by the time he's 5!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The resilient Buzz Lightyear, a medical marvel

As I have mentioned, Gavin is obsessed with Toy Story. He takes Buzz and Woody with him everywhere. Many times we tell him that he can only take one- so sometimes Buzz joins us at the store, and later, Woody will join us at the park. It's much like the movie, in that Gavin usually chooses Buzz. He likes to take him out on the front porch, where he throws him over the railing and then runs to retrieve him. He isn't exactly gentle with these toys.

About two months ago, Gavin was throwing Buzz around the kitchen and his leg fell off. It was tragic. We made a trip to the store and replaced him. However, Buzz 2 has been thrown around even more than the Buzz 1. So, when Buzz 2 lost his leg recently, Adam pulled out some of his procedural skills and Buzz underwent a hip replacement.
Buzz, being prepped for surgery
But first, a hug to wish him well. This was actually a very serious ordeal for Gavin.
Mommy needed to hug him too, for added measure.
The leg
The hip socket
The pin
The super glue- what all hip replacements depend on.
Buzz, post-op. He is indeed ready to go to infinity and beyond!
It should be mentioned that since this surgery, Buzz has undergone 3 back surgeries. Gavin is very happy that his daddy is a doctor. In his words, "It's ok Buzz, Daddy is a doctor. He'll fix your back again!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Max, the Culinary Beagle

Our youngest beagle Max, has never been a thin dog. He is barrel chested and stout. In hindsight, we really should have named him Wilbur. When he is sleeping, his belly hangs to the side and he truly does resemble a pig. They say that beagles are one of the more food-obsessed breeds, which is why it is recommended to only feed them dog food and no table scraps. We have been very good about this, but nonetheless, Max struggles with his weight. Although we joke, he really is a sweet dog. His love of food has led him to become my kitchen companion.

When we lived in Seattle, our house was set up differently, with the family room downstairs. We kept the beagles down there and they were not allowed in the kitchen. When we moved to Albany, the rules had to change because our house has a completely different floor plan. Now, the beagles basically have full range of the house. They are older now and better behaved, so this hasn't been too big of an issue. Because they are now allowed in the kitchen, Max has taken to watching me cook every meal. He stands by my feet the entire time. It used to drive me insane, and sometimes still does. But, it is also sort of endearing. I refer to him as my useless sous chef. I am sure that he is just waiting for me to drop something, and occasionally I do. But, to his frequent disappointment, I mostly drop chopped onions.

Lately, we have been making up stories to tell to Gavin at bedtime. He loves stories about Buzz and the Toy Story gang. But, he also loves stories about Starsky and Max. I often tell him stories about Max, the culinary beagle. I think these up while I am making dinner. I sometimes imagine Max narrating my cooking, like Alton Brown narrates Iron Chef. "Hmm... not sure what she's going to do with that fennel bulb." Or, taking on an Emerilesque quality, "Oh yeah, babe- more butter!" I imagine if Max could make himself a gourmet meal, it would involve a ribeye, blue cheese, and a loaded baked potato (with bacon, of course.) The stories often involve Max whipping up pancakes in the middle of the night, or convincing Starsky to make a trip to Five Guys for a burger, in which case, they ride skateboards. It's become a fun exercise and Gavin makes up some funny stories himself. Here is a picture of Max, our culinary beagle. I've been thinking that I should get him a collar that says, "Bon Appetit!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life with Olivia at 4 months

We just returned from Olivia's 4 month checkup. Amazing that it's been 4 months already. I finally feel like I have a bit of a grasp on life with two kids. The basic rule of thumb is to have a "just roll with it" attitude. Children are just completely unpredictable. Things that worked with Gavin, don't work with Olivia. But, one thing is true with every child: they grow up fast. I have to constantly remind myself of this fact. When I find myself getting frustrated about not getting things done around the house, I will take the kids out on the front porch. It's gotten colder, but we snuggle on the porch swing with a blanket and it seems to calm us all down. It's these moments that make me feel lucky. Where else would I rather be? Certainly not cleaning the house. Porch swings are therapeutic.

Olivia is getting so big. She has such a sweet nature about her. All she really wants is to be held and talked to. When I am not holding her, she watches me and when we make eye contact, she gives me a great big smile. She has a great smile- the kind of smile that starts with her eyes. Without talking, she says, "Hi Mom! It's me!" We love her.

She continues to be a bit of a night owl, but I'm beginning to call her bluff. She goes to bed around 8pm and wakes up for a feeding around midnight. She wakes up around 3am, but I'm letting her fuss through that one. She seems to be a light sleeper and I'm trying to encourage her to fall back to sleep. The last couple of nights have been successful and I'm finally getting 6 solid hours of sleep. She wakes again around 6am for a feeding. From there, she'll sleep until 8am or 9am. After the last few months, I will take it!

Here are her current stats and a few pics from the past month:
Weight: 14lbs, 12oz (63rd percentile)
Length: 25.5 inches (81st percentile- lucky little thing)
Skills: rolling, giggling, smiling, and doing all things cute
Cuddled up in the beautiful quilt that her Grandma deMars made for her

Happy Girl!
Halloween Giraffe
Oh, yes she did!
I dare you not to love our little material girl...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An early visit from Stewie the Snowman

It snowed here yesterday. Gavin noticed it first and ran to the window, "it's snowing!" Then, he ran right upstairs and got his snowboots out of his closet. He wanted to make a snowman. It was great to see that he remembered all of the fun we had last winter. He said, "let's go have fun!" I had to explain that there wasn't any snow on the ground yet and that it probably wouldn't stick. He was very disappointed, but settled on catching some snowflakes with his tongue and then coming inside to watch "Frosty" on dvd.

When he woke from his nap, he noticed that the snow actually did stick; there was about 2 inches on the ground. I told him that he could play outside once Adam got home. With that, Gavin grabbed my cell phone and said, "call daddy!" He got on the phone and told Adam that he wanted to play outside and make a snowman. Adam agreed, and once he came home, the two of them built a snowman in the dark. They decided to call him Stewie.

It's since warmed back up to the 50s. Stewie is still hanging on, but his charcoal facial features have fallen. He could use a little botox... We still have a lot of leaves to rake up and haven't yet put away our patio furniture. It will be good to have some warmer weather to finish up these chores. Yesterday was a good preview of what's to come. I actually really enjoy the winters here. We live super close to Adam's hospital so I don't have to worry about his commute. And, better yet, I don't have one! Winters with kids are joyous. Just watching Gavin's delight at seeing the snow was awesome. It reminded me of being a kid, hoping for school to be cancelled. It doesn't really matter how old you are; the first snowfall of the season is exciting! It's an excuse to abandon all to-do lists and just snuggle and play. Here are a few pictures of our first official snow day.
"Look, Mom! It's snowing!"
Adam and Gavin's "Stewie"
Gavin and Stewie

Monday, November 1, 2010

Girls Weekend in Montreal

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I escaped to Montreal. We had planned to go somewhere for a girls weekend and waited to see where we could priceline the best hotel deal before deciding on a destination. We thought we were going to end up in Boston, but hotels were crazy expensive for some reason. So, we decided to drive a little bit further, and go to Montreal. I am so glad that we did, because it is an amazing city! It reminded me of Vancouver, and also of Paris. It is such a clean city, especially in contrast to Philadelphia. There is a great mix of old and new architecture. The food scene is fabulous. Shopping is plentiful. In summary, destination Montreal, equals, destination AWESOME!

I was a little uneasy about leaving Olivia, since she's still so little. I was less uneasy about leaving Gavin. (Future Gavin, please do not take offense. When you have a 3 year old someday, you'll completely understand.) Regardless, I knew I needed to take a break from my mommy role. I think it's infinitely important for parents to take some time for themselves. It's good for everyone- believe it or not, kids need a break from us too! I also think it's important to spend time with friends. Because we don't have family here, our friends have really stepped up to fill that void. I enjoyed being able to devote time to those friendships. It was great to be able to have conversations without pausing to change a diaper, or deal with a tantrum. It was wonderful to dress up for dinner, enjoy appetizers, and eat slowly. Girls weekends... simply rock. Of course, it's always great to come home to my babies and an equally awesome husband.

Here are a few photos of Montreal. I'm working on an article for about Montreal. I will post the link once it goes live.
The drive to Montreal is about 4 hours from Albany. It's a straight shot, north on I-87. It was beautiful in late October.
At a great restaurant in Old Montreal, called L'Appartement
Toyin, Fahmida, and Michelle- heading out for a day of shopping and sightseeing 
Notre Dame- Old Montreal
Old Montreal- cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and brasseries
Shopping in Old Montreal

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gonna Fly Now... Philadelphia!

We recently took a trip to Philadelphia. While we had a fun time, both Adam and I feel like we're all set with Philly. We just didn't enjoy it as much as Boston or New York City. Cities are a little tough with small kids- a lot of concrete and holding hands. I think we made the most of it, though. We saw Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Square, ate cheesesteaks, and took a walk along the Schuylkill River. And, of course, we saw the famous Rocky statue and stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We also took a side trip off to Valley Forge, but I'll save that for another post. Here is a little movie of our time in Philly!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Football and Soup- Sundays at Chez deMars

Football Sundays at the deMars' house include: sweatpants as the dress code, two televisions in the living room, tons of fantasy football smack talk, and often, a pot of soup on the stove. This past weekend, I made White Bean Chicken Chili, and it was delicious. It is spicy and warms the belly. The best part is that it's ridiculously simple and won't require you to miss much of the football action. I don't know about you, but once I get parked on the couch in my sweatpants, it's hard to be motivated to do much else. I decided to share the recipe and hope you find that it suits your own lazy weekends just as well.

White Bean Chicken Chili, adapted from a recipe that I received from Chelea, who received it from Elizabeth, who has no idea where it came from before that...

2 tbl olive oil
1.5 lbs chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
3 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 4oz cans chopped green chilis
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream

Instruction: cube chicken into 1/2 inch pieces; heat olive oil in dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot; add chicken, onion, and garlic to the pot and saute on medium heat, until the chicken is cooked through, stirring often, making sure not to burn the garlic. When chicken is cooked, add chicken broth, beans, chilis, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne. Stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to med low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add sour cream and whipping cream. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so. The dairy will cool the soup down, so you just want to make sure it's hot again before serving.

*Side note- this is fairly spicy. If you do not like a lot of heat, reduce the amount of cayenne.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Life with Olivia at 3 months

Olivia will be 3 months old tomorrow. We will be celebrating in Philadelphia! Olivia has sure had an exciting life so far- several day trips throughout New York, a trip to Connecticut, and now Philly! I'm sure that when she is older, and has absolutely no recollection of any of these journeys, she'll enjoy reading about them and seeing pictures of herself posed in front of historical landmarks. I shake my own head in disbelief, that I have seen so much in the past couple of years. As much as I didn't want to leave Seattle, this has been an extremely cool experience. Life is really quite exciting- if you allow it to be.

Now, back to the star of my post, Olivia. Miss Liv has a cute personality. Her smile is adorable. Her pout is equally cute. She sticks her whole bottom lip out when she is upset. Gavin used to do the same thing. We laugh because she really demands attention. Some babies will just sit on your lap, content just to be held. Olivia wants to talk. She wants you to sing and play pat-a-cake. I had her sitting in her car seat yesterday, just hanging out on a blanket. Wouldn't you know, she kicked herself right out of it! Thankfully, I had her on the floor. My baby girl has one big attitude! And, I think it's gaining the respect of her big brother. Gavin thought it was so funny that she kicked herself out of her chair. He also likes to play pat-a-cake with her. The verse goes, "and throw it in the oven for baby and me! And Gavin!"

Little girl is still not even close to sleeping through the night. She is up at 10pm, 2am, 4am, then 6am... I call her my little bat. It's ok. I figured that we'd pay the price for how easy we had it with Gavin. We were too cocky. Anyhow, hopefully the sleeping situation will improve by next month...

Here are a few photos of Miss Olivia. Next post will be all about Philly!
Game day! Straight from the hawk nest!
Hanging with big bro in their footie jammies
Can you tell that this is our second baby?!?