Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Day to Day

Hello. Sometimes I forget to just check in and write about our day-to-day stuff. Things are going well this month. Gavin is loving school and has made lots of friends. He even has a girlfriend! Yet, her name changes nearly everyday so I'm not sure how serious things are. One day it's Lyla; the next day it's Angeline. He seems to get along with everyone and has such a joyful demeanor. His teachers told me that they think the world would be a much better place if everyone got to spend one hour with Gavin. I can't think of a better compliment than that. Of course, he saves some of his less pleasant behavior for after school.

Gavin is challenging our patience with back talk and not listening. Communicating with a four year old can be difficult. Many of our conversations go like this, "Gavin, you're not acting nice." "No, you're not acting nice." "Gavin, you need to say you're sorry to Olivia." "No, you need to say you're sorry." It can quickly develop into a downward spiral from there. Before I know it, I'm the one acting like a four year old. The worst part is when I just want to laugh but can't because I'm trying to be a good parent. I'm going to try a new method of dealing with this behavior. I feel like I'd be best to redirect his attention to something else and then later bring up why he needs to talk nicer or why he made me upset. These in the moment behavioral corrections are not working. We'll see... it's funny how many different articles are out there on the best form of discipline. Everyone has a theory and they pretty much all conflict. What I do know is that it's all normal and pretty much annoying! As the saying goes, it's a good thing kids are cute!

Speaking of cute, Olivia is sure coming out of her shell. She held back for quite a long time but now she's laughing and being silly. I don't know if it's just having more experience but she seems to be such an easy toddler. She is just happy! Of course, she absolutely destroys our house. That girl makes more messes than Gavin ever did. She is like pig pen- she makes a mess in one room and then moves on to the next before I've even gotten the first mess cleaned up. Such a trouble maker! Probably the cutest thing she has been doing lately is giving fist bumps. She gives a pound and says, "boom!" Crazy cute.

Adam has been busy. In October, he spent a week in Ecuador on a medical mission. I've asked him to write a blog post about it, so stay tuned. He also had to give an hour-long presentation at what they call grand rounds. It was in front of his whole department- 100+ people. Better him than me! I hate stuff like that. Anyhow, now that he's got that out of the way, he's working on finding a job in the Seattle area. He's got quite a few leads and is starting to send out resumes and explore opportunities. He's counting down the days to graduation. If all goes well, we'll be back in the northwest by early-to-mid summer.

I'm working on getting our house ready to put on the market. It's all tiny detail work. I'm freshening up paint and clearing out clutter. I'm not sure what to expect with the market but I'll do my best to make this house show as well as possible. This is a great house but it has plenty of old-home quirks. I look forward to having our next home be permanent. It gets exhausting working on a house, knowing that we're just going to move. I am going to miss this house quite a lot.

Well, that's all that's going on back here. Now, I better clean up all of Olivia's messes while she is napping or she won't have anything to do when she wakes up! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween Superheroes

Let me introduce to you the kids that keep our house safe from all things bad and evil:
 Captain Dangerous

 And his sidekick...

The Evil Genius

For Halloween, I decided to make capes for the kids because of Gavin's recent interest in superheroes. I found a pattern on Etsy and managed to do a pretty decent job making them! I am still very green when it comes to sewing and I didn't realize how hard it is to work with stretchy knit fabrics. But, I managed to get them done well before Halloween. It was pretty easy to put together the rest of their costumes, just needed a few accessories. Although Gavin loved his cape, he was a little bummed that he wasn't going to be Batman. Adam and I loved their originality but I've decided that next year I will just let him be whoever he wants. The last thing I want is a guilt trip when he's all grownup. It amazes me how much stuff like this can come back twenty years later!!! 

Halloween night was a lot of fun. We weren't sure what Olivia would think. We thought she'd be too little to enjoy trick-or-treating. Boy, were we wrong! She strutted along from house to house, dragging her little pumpkin. Her walk is just too funny. We've taken to calling her "little miss thang." Everyone got a kick out of her "evil genius" cape. Gavin told everyone that he was Captain Dangerous and that he had a danger button. So, even though he wasn't the awesome Batman, he did own his character very well! 

The best part of the superhero costume is that they will keep playing with them. I love watching them chase each other around the house, capes flying behind them. It was fun making them and I can't help thinking that I'm a pretty kick-ass mom! (Hey, there can be a lot of self-doubt or guilt as a parent, so you have to celebrate your successes!) Here are just a few more pics:

Monday, October 17, 2011

October in Maine

Well, I managed to go an entire month without a blog post- sorry about that! I cannot believe how fast the days are flying by. We are having a wonderful fall season in the northeast. We are midway through October and we haven't had to turn the heat on! Normally we have already installed the plastic in the windows. I'm sure that the cold weather is right around the corner. But, in the meantime, we are soaking up the nice days!

Earlier this month we took a trip back up to Maine. We rented a big house with our friends and it was so much fun. I cannot even articulate how much the friendships we've made here have helped us get through this time away. We have a legitimate family here. They've helped us raise Gavin and now Olivia. We're just very lucky. And, on top of all that, we plan awesome vacations together! The house we found was amazing, right on a lake, with plenty of bedrooms and a game room. We are now in the midst of planning our winter trip, maybe to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks or to Vermont. These group trips are something we hope to continue throughout our lives.

Maine is called the vacation state, and for very good reason. I can't think of many places that are more relaxing. It's just beautiful there. I love the scenery with its rocky beaches and views of lighthouses. I love the bakeries and quaint shops. On this trip, we spent less time at the ocean and more time enjoying the lake we stayed on. Gavin got his first fishing pole and had a great time casting off the dock. He's at such a great age right now, able to do so many things. I took him out in a kayak with me and we paddled around on "adventures." It was a small glimpse into all the fun things to come. As much as I get sad thinking about my babies growing up, I am so excited about all the active things we'll be able to do as they get bigger. I could talk all day about how much I love vacationing throughout New England, but instead I will just share some photos. It was a really wonderful time.
Fort Constitution, Rye, NH with their buddy Lukas

Amazingly gorgeous day in Ogunquit. Liv and Gav loved splashing in the waves.
I just love this picture of them having an inside joke moment.
One of my favorite moments of our entire trip.
$4.98/lb baby!
Family. Friendship. Maine. Perfection.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gavin and school

I have been meaning to update this blog for weeks, but life has gotten so busy! Gavin started prekindergarten last week, which has been a bit of a roller coaster. It's been a huge adjustment for all of us as we learn our new routine. Gavin has been home with me full-time for the past two years, so going to school all day is huge. We've had some very emotional mornings, followed by some happy afternoons. The first day was the toughest for me. I had a very hard time keeping it together and not bawling my eyes out right in his classroom. But, now that we are almost done with week 2, I can see that it was the right decision to send him to school. He is making friends and staying active. We have been walking to and from school when it hasn't been raining. It's so nice to have that time before and after school to talk. He is a very funny kid. He wants to start bringing a garbage bag so we can pick up litter. In his words, "It is not nice to throw garbage on the ground." Al Gore better watch out; we have a little environmentalist in the making! 

Gavin's teacher's name is Miss Gerwin. It's so cute to hear him talk about what she tells him. Last week, he came home and said, "Eyes on me (points to his eyes), mouth closed (points to his mouth), body still (folds his arms across his chest)." I think it's great that he is learning to listen to other adults and how to navigate a social environment. His class has 15 kids in total, which seems to be a good number. All the kids seem really nice, though Gavin knows none of their names. I told him he should make a point of learning names next week!

Gavin really enjoys having a lunch box. The lunch box is quite a big deal! We talk about what we are going to pack in it and he comes up with ideas. I'm actually impressed because he asked for carrot sticks one day and apple slices another. I'm trying to come up with some new ideas outside of the pb&j. 

Olivia seems to miss him during the day, but enjoys having all the toys to herself. We have lots of time to snuggle and read books in the morning before her nap. I've been using her nap time to get some exercise and get things done around the house. When we pick Gavin up from school, Liv is always excited. She smiles and giggles at him. He always gives her a hug and tells her that he missed her. It is ridiculously cute.

So that is what life is like now that we have a little school kid. It's busy, but exciting. I miss him during the early part of the day, but it's so nice to have really quality time to just relax in the afternoons. I'm glad that I'm not working so I can pick him up at 2pm and know that I don't have anything else to do. It's great to see him become independent and hear all about the trials and tribulations of being 4! Here are a few of his school pictures.
He's got the essentials- a blanket and stuffed giraffe!
Trying to be brave and not cry on the first day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gavin Rocks Out His 4th Birthday!

Gavin turned 4 last week! He had such a great day and was spoiled with tons of fun gifts! We picked him up from school and took him to Toys R Us to pick out his first bike. He chose this bright orange one and then picked out a Lightening McQueen helmet & bell. He's doing great with pedaling and learning how to brake. It's incredible to see how big he's getting. His look of pride is priceless as he yells out, "Ohhh, I'm getting the hang of it now!"
Gavin has many interests at this age. He loves dinosaurs and superheroes. He likes to paint and color. But, what seems to be a growing passion is his love of music. My parents and sisters got him a drum set and a guitar for his birthday. He has been entertaining us with his "jams." Yes, he calls them jams! Here is a video I put together which shows him rocking out and riding his new bike.
Oh, and p.s. - I will try to remember to take video horizontally with my iphone from now on so I don't end up with these skinny, vertical clips. Sorry about that...

Catching up with Olivia

It's been a while since we chatted about Olivia. Liv is now 14 months old and becoming such a big girl! Over the last two months, she has started walking and talking! The walking was sort of a funny thing. She could do it right after she turned one year old, but was very hesitant. She would take a couple of steps and then immediately resume crawling. This went on for about a month. At 13 months, she started to go for it. Now, she's all over the place! We laugh because she has a drunken Charlie Chaplin style of walk- very much a toddler. I've included a video for your viewing pleasure.

Around the same time that she started walking, Livie started to talk! It completely took me by surprise one night when she handed me her plate after dinner and said, "all done!" It was so awesome! Then, about a week later, Adam was out playing basketball with Gavin and he was dribbling the ball with Liv. She bounced it a few times and said, "I did it!" Since then, she's said lots of other words, including keys, baby, hi, and bye bye. She loves to say, "I got it!" After I wipe her runny nose, she says, "That's better." It's just so crazy to me! Gavin didn't start talking until much, much later. I'm not sure if it's the girl thing or the sibling thing. Probably a bit of both. 

Anyhow, that's what's new with our little gal. She is such a sweet girl. She's feisty and a bit of a diva. But, her baseline is just pure happiness. She gives us hugs, high fives, and perfect smiles. Here are a few pictures of Liv from the last couple of months.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Laundry Room Facelift

I mentioned a while back that we were working on fixing up our laundry room. This house is nearly 112 years old, which makes it all kinds of "charming." However, the basement laundry room was beyond disgusting and not charming at all. It's pretty common for these old houses to have sketchy basements. When we were considering purchasing this house, it was definitely on the "con" list. Adam promised that we could make it nicer. So, three years later, we finally tackled this project. I will walk you through the before and after.
Floor was previously painted but it was chipping everywhere and just felt dirty. The washing machine had a rusty exterior.
Check out this freak-fest! The walls had paint chipping and some funky mold. To be fair, this photo was taken after I scraped a lot of the paint. It didn't look this bad, but close. 
After I scraped the chipped paint and washed the walls with bleach and water, I painted everything with a pale blue exterior wall paint. I decided to paint the pipes so that it looked more finished. For the floor, we chose Rust-Oleum Epoxyshield Garage Floor Paint. It's awesome! It has a glossy finish and almost feels like linoleum. It's super durable and feels so clean. We replaced the washing machine, added some better lighting, and I sewed some curtains to cover up the freaky windows.
My mom suggested that we add a folding table to make it look more like a laundry room. We found a prefab counter top and Adam built a frame to support it. I love this folding table. It is so handy to just take the clothes right out of the dryer and have a place to fold everything.
Considering what we started out with, I am so pleased with the result! I think it will make a potential buyer feel better about the laundry room being in the basement. Now... on to the next project!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mornings with Gavin

My mornings generally begin in the same way. Gavin climbs into bed with me around 6:30am. He kisses me on the cheek and tells me I'm the best mom he's ever had. It's so sweet that I almost forgive him for waking me up so early. Occasionally, he'll fall back to sleep until 8am. More often, he'll play with his toys and mess with my face. Around 8:30, Olivia will wake up and we'll all make our way downstairs for breakfast. We're a lazy bunch in the mornings and it's pretty much perfect.

Gavin starts prekindergarten in less than a month. It's going be a huge change for all of us. The Albany school district offers prekindergarten spots based on a lottery. Gavin was selected this year and we decided to accept. It's full-time, which has been very hard for me to wrap my head around. At first, I was completely against it. He will just be turning 4- seems like a pretty big change for a little guy. Still, I registered him to hold our spot so I could think about it over the summer months. We have talked with Gavin about it and he is just so excited to start school. Over the past few months, he has really turned into a little boy. He has so much energy and seems like he will really excel in an environment with lots of activities. He is about as social as kids come. I'm fairly confident that he's going to love school.

Being a mom can be so conflicting. It's impossible to quantify the amount of love that I have for Gavin and part of me wants to keep him home so I can have him all to myself. Yet, I look at this little boy that I am raising and realize that I have done a great job with him. He is fun-loving, smart, and confident. Sending him to school will allow these traits to flourish and he'll develop skills that will prepare him for the rest of his life. The school is just a half mile from our house so we'll probably walk when the weather is warm. He'll be home at 2pm, which will give us plenty of time to go to the park afterwards or chat about his day over a snack. It's funny- he's actually been the one making me feel good about this, "Mom, I need to go to school. I want to make friends and learn my letters."

I'm looking forward to having some individual time with Liv. Gavin demands so much interaction that sometimes I feel like Liv isn't getting as much as she'd like. My plan is to drop Gavin off at school, take Olivia to the library for story-time or go for a walk. By late morning, she goes down for a pretty long nap. I should have a good couple of hours to myself which I plan to use for writing and tackling projects around the house in preparation to sell.We'll have lunch and then go pick up the G-unit. It'll be an adjustment but that's what life is, right? The beauty of our situation is that we can change it if we need to. If for some reason, school isn't working out- I can just pull him out. Still, I'm a little sad about all of this. It's really amazing how fast kids grow up. I don't see time slowing down, either. It's why I don't make Gavin go back to his room in the mornings. Before I know it, he'll be a teenager and I'll be wishing for the days when he tickled my ears with his Mr. Potato Head arms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"My Father's Daughter" - cookbook review

Say what you want about Gwyneth Paltrow; I am here to tell you that she just came out with a fantastic cookbook. She recently made the cover of Bon Appetit magazine which proved to be very controversial. I admit that even I wasn't thrilled to see her face on the magazine I anxiously await each month. I look forward to seeing what the cover recipe is and making that recipe. The sad little bowl of pasta she was holding was not exactly inspiring. It's a food magazine, after all. I follow Bon Appetit on facebook and enjoy reading all the comments. People were not happy about GP! But, several of the recipes in the magazine looked interesting and her new cookbook is getting rave reviews. Because is way too easy to use, I ordered it. I just spent an hour reading it over morning coffee and am really impressed. As the editor of BA explained, for so many of us mealtime is about far more than the food. It's about togetherness, nourishment, family, and creating memories. Gwyneth has a reputation for being a celebrity health nut. She addresses this in her book, explaining that she is very concerned about what she puts in her body and the bodies of her children. She has struggled to find balance in all of this. I also find the current food environment hard to navigate. To be honest, I think I sort of shelter myself from the information that is out there so I can continue to enjoy food that is highly suspect. 

I ordered My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness after reading a few excerpts online. I can really identify with wanting to provide my family with healthy, but delicious food. I think it's a good idea to have some good vegetarian recipes in ones diet. But, by vegetarian, I don't mean a lame pasta with some vegetables tossed in. I want flavor! I want a recipe that leaves people at the end of the meal exclaiming, "Wow, I didn't even notice that was vegetarian!" I can tell that Gwyneth created several of her recipes with the same goal in mind. I also want my family to eat (and like) more vegetables. I am constantly trying to find recipes that will excite Adam, who seems to have a very limited palate for the veggies. I messed up with Gavin somewhere around age 2. I never committed to this goal of feeding him unprocessed food. Why on earth would he like Kraft mac & cheese over my delicious homemade goodness? Because I gave it to him- that's why. Now he just thinks all melted cheese should be soupy and orange. I'll own up to it. It's something we're working on. I am very excited about this new cookbook because Gwneth has lots of tips for cooking for and with her kids. I love the balance of vegetable and meat focused recipes. All of her vinaigrette recipes look simple and delicious, as do several of her soups. I plan on making her oven-roasted tomatoes this week and maybe her paella.

Anyhow, I have a bit of a cookbook obsession and they are not all created equal. I am glad to add this one to my collection. Even if you're not a GP fan, I think you'll like what she's done with her book. At the end of the day, a good cookbook is a good cookbook! Check it out!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beautiful Montreal!

Hello again. I think I mentioned that we spent Olivia's first birthday in the glorious city of Montreal. I have been meaning to get back here to tell you all about our trip. Julie was visiting and we wanted to take her somewhere exciting. Adam had not been up to Montreal before so we decided that would be a perfect destination. If you remember, I took a girls trip up there last fall. Visiting in the summer was a completely different experience. The city was alive and the weather was perfect. Montreal is very metropolitan- tons of great restaurants and shopping. I really love the area called Vieux Montreal- or "Old Montreal." I have read that this area is considered a tourist trap and maybe it is. I don't much care, though. As someone who would love to make annual trips to Paris, this area of Montreal really does satisfy that Parisian craving. The cobblestone streets and historical architecture are charming. The neighborhood is filled with bistros, creperies, pubs, and cute shops. We had a great time walking around and taking in the scenery. We enjoyed lunch and afternoon ice cream. After wandering Old Montreal, we decided to visit Parc Olympique- where we thoroughly enjoyed the botanical gardens. We got lucky and got there right around closing. We just had to wait until 6pm, which is when they stop manning the gates and you can enter without paying the $16 per person admission fee. We were quite excited about that! During the day, the admission fee grants you access to the insectarium and the biodome. Oddly, you cannot just pay a small fee to walk the grounds and see just the gardens. Anyhow, evening was an ideal time to visit because it felt like we had the park to ourselves and the temperature was lovely. The gardens are absolutely stunning. There is a great playground outside the insectarium that we all enjoyed. It was a short, but sweet, trip to Montreal. Here are the pics!
Montreal- makes Europe feel just a little bit closer!
Beautiful day to walk along the water!
Hanging out in Montreal with my "little" sister!
Birthday girl enjoying ice cream!
At Parc Olympique
Julie getting her zen on!
Gavin getting his zen on!
Having fun at the playground
Auntie helping the birthday girl take a sip of water!
Another classic Julie pose!