Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Matthew, the Pro

Wow! It finally worked! Fifth time's a charm...

Anyway, I am amazed at how much progress Matthew has made in just a few weeks. He's standing up without holding onto anything, carrying and throwing things while walking, and turning quite well now. His new favorite thing is to chase Embry in circles around the living room. They start giggling so hard that they both lose their balance and fall down, usually on top of one another. Enjoy!

Year End Update

Well, I was planning on posting an ultra-cute video of Matthew showing off his walking skills, but Blogger had other ideas. So, year-end-update it is...

Around the House: Embry and I just finished taking down the tree. The official sign that Christmas is over. I think she liked taking it down even more than putting it up. But, it is always a little depressing for me. For several weeks, getting ready for Christmas consumes so much of my time and energy, that once it's over, I don't know what to do with myself. I've been cleaning and organizing, starting next Monday getting back into crafting. I really did not like the stockings I have for everyone, so I am going to make some new ones. And if I am going to make my Christmas cards for next year, I have to get started early.

In the Kitchen: I know you're supposed to have black-eyed peas for New Year's, but I prefer black beans. And besides, it was a great way to use up all of the leftover ham from Christmas. Also, in a fond farewell to all of the Christmas sweets, I am making a bread pudding with some leftover cranberry bread. We are also cooking up the rest of our appetizers for New Year's Eve, and I am mixing up some sangria with our leftover wine.

New with Embry: This week we are trying to finally get Embry out of her Pull-Ups. We have been sort-of potty training for a year now, but I have decided that she will be finished when she goes back to school. This week is perfect because we have no distractions and I can spend all of our time at home. She is doing great so far... wish us luck!

New with Matthew: Now that he's pretty comfortable walking, Matthew loves to chase around his sister (whether she likes it or not).

I am Thankful For: The last year, and what a crazy year is has been for us. Last year at this time we were living in Alabama and I was taking time off of work to stay home with my newborn. Now I'm at home full time, in St. Louis, my little girl is going back to school next week, and my baby just turned 1 year old. Did all of that really happen in just one year?

The Weather Outside: The weather has been CRAZY around here. The week before Christmas, it was so cold outside that I was reluctant to take the kids with me to the store. Then, in the days after Christmas it was so warm that we were going out without jackets on. There were a couple of thunderstorms here and there (yes, with thunder and lightning, in December), and now it seems back to normal. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the winter goes.

I am Obsessing About: Trying not to obsess so much; one of my resolutions. Also, not complaining as much, feeding the kids (and J and myself) better food, and the same old lose weight.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

Well, today was the first day with just the four of us in the house again. Things are slowly getting back to normal. Most of the presents are put away, most of the leftovers are eaten. (The tree is still up and the lights are still up outside. I usually wait until New Year's before I take down that stuff.) Jason went back to work and the kids and I spent a normal day at home. Although Embry is still home from school for another week, so it wasn't quite a normal weekday.

We had a wonderful Christmas and weekend. We had a full house and lots and lots of food. We opened gifts on Christmas morning. Embry got tired about halfway through and decided that all she wanted to do was paint with her new easel. Matthew slept through the presents, so he opened his later in the day. Everyone got lots of great stuff, especially the kids. Matthew played for about an hour with this train toy that pops balls out of the top of it. And Embry paints on her easel everyday. Mine and Jason's favorites are the Nintendos we got. Yes, we unwrapped a Wii and an NES. Awesome.

For Christmas dinner, we made a ham and fried deer, scalloped potatoes, Italian braised green beans, homemade rolls, a layered salad, and taco ring (taco meat inside crescent roll dough with taco fixin's on top), cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, and lots of wine. I think my favorite was the potatoes. It was from the Best Recipe Cookbook (my favorite), and I had not tried it before, but it was yummy. We didn't make a dessert since we had tons of cookies. We had three platters that we kept refilling all weekend long.

By Sunday I was exhausted and the house was still a huge mess, but I think everyone had a good time. And everyone got home safe despite some unusually weather.

Here's some pictures, I'll put the rest up on Snapfish soon. Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I figured that with all that will be going on at the house in the next few days, it's not likely that I will post again for a while. So, I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and leave you with a couple of cute pictures.

The first one is of Embry eyeing the cookie plate that I made up for Christmas Eve.

The last one is of the kids being cute and laying together on the floor right before naptime this afternoon. I can't believe how big Matthew is getting compared to his sister. He won't be her "little" brother for much longer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Christmas Happenings

Around the House: Cleaning and organizing. Getting ready for guests on Wednesday night. Here's a picture of the amaryllis that I bought from a school fundraiser. I had hoped that it would wait until Christmas to bloom, but of course it bloomed a week earlier. Oh well, it was still beautiful. And it is always nice to see pretty flowers on the table when the rest of the house looks like a tornado hit it.

In the Kitchen: The focus from now until Wednesday is cookies. I baked butter cookies last Friday and on Saturday, Embry and I decorated them. J even frosted a few.

Here's a closer look of one of my favorites... the blue Christmas tree with 30 (yes, we counted) red hots on it. Embry was very liberal with the red hots on all of her cookies. I finally had to cut her off, so that we'd have some cookies without them. The funny thing is that I remember doing the exact same thing when I was little. I also liked the silver dragees :)

New with Embry: We went to Embry's School Christmas program open house last week. The theme was Christmas around the world. Each classroom was a different region/country and celebrated as they do with clothing decorations, crafts,and food. Embry's class was Africa. They each stamped a t-shirt to wear, made drums, and clay pots. She also wore a beaded necklace and bracelet that they made. They had a expert on African culture come and speak to them. He brought instruments, traditional costumes, and decorations. And someone brought in a few African foods to eat. We were able to go to Embry's classroom and then walk with her to all of the other classes to see what they were up to. It was fun.

Here's a picture of Embry in her getup. She also is sporting a candy can that she stole off of the tree when she got home that day.

New with Matthew: He's a total pro at walking now. He's getting around all over the house, although he has some issues with all the places in the house where the carpet transitions to the hard floor and vice versa. He usually just sits down, crawls over the line and then gets up and walks again. Funny.

I'm Thankful For: Trader Joe's, the best store ever. Not only did we find another great new wine there today (that I'm sipping right now), but also a small container of Fiesta Dip. For those who are not familiar... Fiesta Dip is re-fried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese layered for dipping. It is one of my favorite treats, but usually you can only find it in huge containers at the grocery store. Trader Joe's had a 2 serving size and they used black beans instead of pintos (even better). Yum!

The Weather Outside: I still can't complain. Even though it's now 9 degrees outside we have somehow avoided lots of messiness this week. It could have been like at my Mom's house with lots and lots of snow, or like at J's Mom's house with lots of ice. I'll definitely take cold and windy instead. Side note - Matthew (and sometimes Embry) have taken to playing in my bedroom closet lately. I think it's partly because there is a heat duct running through it and it's always warm in there.

I'm Obsessing About: Having everything ready for Christmas morning. I'm ahead of schedule, but since Embry is home this week, I'm planning on having less time than normal. I know everyone will have a good time regardless of whether or not I dust the bedroom, but it'll be nice of no one notices that I hadn't dusted since we moved here :).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas is Coming

The last few weeks have been all about getting ready for Christmas. I started by putting up some white lights in the bushes outside. Then, the week after Thanksgiving, we went and bought our tree. We went the easy route and get an already cut tree from Home Depot. I hope when the kids are older that we will trek out in the cold and cut down our own like my family did for so many years. We set the tree up in the front room and I attempted to put up the lights. That task ended abruptly though, when 3 strings of my lights didn't work. So, I finished the lights the next day after a trip to Walmart. Later, J, Embry and I hung the ornaments. I bought shatterproof ornaments this year with Matthew in mind, and left a lot of our old glass ornaments packed away. Fortunately, Matthew has not been very interested at all in the tree. I think he is kind of weirded out by it so far.

I also have been baking this week. Our family goes cookie crazy at Christmas. I knew that I would not have to bake all of the cookies I wanted in the days before Christmas, so I started last week and put a few batches of dough in the freezer. I made lemon glazed butter cookies (without the glaze yet), molasses cookies, and raspberry pinwheels. This week I will start to work on the cutouts (Embry and I will frost and decorate them next weekend), blondies (yummy recipe from friend Ginny), and fudge. It will be my first attempt at homemade fudge. Normally I would not be nervous, but my efforts in the kitchen lately have been... unpredictable.

I forgot the sugar in the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Then my first batch of cookie dough was way too dry, and my second batch was way too wet. Then today I tried a different recipe for panettone and it totally flopped (although I blame the recipe for this one). By the way, I will keep trying recipes for panettone until I find a good one, even it takes me all next year.

Thankfully, everyone else will be bringing cookies as well, so if none of mine turn out, we will still have plenty to go around. We are having 10 people (including the kids) for Christmas dinner next Thursday, so I am working on recipes and shopping lists for that as well.

Shopping is done, although I am still waiting on a few last minute gifts to arrive in the mail. And everything that is here is already wrapped. We just have to bring everything up from the basement and put it under the tree on Christmas Eve.

I asked Embry what she wanted Santa to bring her and she answered, "a new sippy cup." That one shouldn't be to hard to get. When I asked her what Matthew will get she said, "a new milk bottle." She decided that I am getting some new plates, and J will be receiving a new workbench and new tools. I guess we'll find out if she's right...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Differences Between Siblings

Until I had Mathew, I had no idea how different two kids could be... and them walking is no exception. Although Embry was also about 1 year when she took her first steps, the way that they go about it is completely different.

With Embry, we had to coax her. I would hold out my arms, call her, and she would walk to me, a couple of steps at a time. She loved to show off her new skill, and she still loves to watch herself on tape.

Matthew has been standing on his own for months. Who knows when he actually had the ability to walk. He has taken a step here or there, and then, on his birthday he took 3 or 4 steps. We try to get him to walk to us, but he just gets down and crawls. Then, the other day I was looking away and Embry yells, "Mattie's walking!" And sure enough, I turn around and he had taken about 10 steps all the way across the living room. He walks only when he feels like it, and usually when no one is looking. This makes getting it on video that much harder. Now I know how those guys from Discovery Channel felt when they were trying to film the snow leopard :)

So, this morning I got out the video camera, turned it on and left it sitting on the desk. I plugged it into the wall so the battery wouldn't run out when I needed it. And I waited. It took until about 12:30, but I finally caught a few steps.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Matthew

Matthew had quite an eventful day on Wednesday. He started the day by going to the doctor for his 12 year check-up. He was poked and prodded, and like all doctor's visits we had to wait for what seemed like forever. So, we ended up getting home an hour after his normal naptime. He was exhausted and slept all morning. I had to wake him up to go pick up Embry from school, then he immediately fell asleep in the car an the way. He took another long nap in the afternoon and then after dinner, we had cake.

He didn't make nearly as big of a mess as I expected. He took his time and I eventually had to take the plate away so we could put him in the bathtub and get ready for bed. After his bath he opened his presents from Embry and from his cousins.

Embry picked out a drum for her brother, which she has played with a lot more than than he has. Matthew had the most fun, though, with the card that Embry picked out for him. She always picks out cards that play music, no matter who the recipient. This particular card has a picture of a baby eating birthday cake on the front, that Embry said was a picture of Matthew. He opens it over and over again every day, and dances a little when it starts to play, "I'm so excited!" He is so funny.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

We drove to Rock Falls on Wednesday afternoon. It took us 4 1/2 hours. Traffic was not bad at all, the weather was nice, and the kids did great in the car, especially since they slept about half of the trip. We were tired when we got there, so we ordered the pizza from the best pizza place in the world, Angelo's, and went to bed early.

Everyone got up at 5:45 the next morning, which was not such a bad thing considering we had all had to shower and get dressed, I had to make a pie, and my mom had to make biscuits, a casserole and frost a cake. I gave up on trying to find a second dish to bring, so we just brought a couple bottles of wine.

As you can see, J and Matthew were very excited for dinner to begin. Embry had a great time playing with all of cousins, and it was wonderful to see most of my extended family. Neither I nor J got to eat much, though. Naptime came and went and right about the time that it was time to eat, Embry decided it was time to go. (She was also crabby due to her newly discovered allergy to my Mom's cats. She was on Children's Claritin the whole time we were there.) So, we took the kids home to sleep, and I returned to visit with the family.

Shortly after I returned we went on our annual post dinner walk. This year we walked across the brand new walkway that spans the Rock River 2 blocks from my Mom's house. It was cold and windy (so I am kind of glad that the kids were warm in their beds), but still fun. After our walk, we feel that we have burned off enough of dinner to start on dessert. Yes, I said start. You see, when there are enough desserts for everyone to have a whole pie to themselves, you have to pace yourself.

Here is the best shot I got of my pie, the one in the middle. It turned out to look much nicer that it tasted. I left out the sugar. It was not totally devoid of sweetness, as I did put in candied yams and maple syrup, but I could tell that something was definitely missing. Luckily, someone else brought a pumpkin pie as well. It was great with a huge pile of Reddi-whip on top!

Among the other desserts were a pecan pie, apple, peach, coconut cream, banana cream (my all time favorite pie), a coconut cake, and a trifle. All homemade and all delicious. I only tasted 4 of them while we were there, but I had to make J and Embry a plate to take home, so I packed up all the ones that I hadn't yet tried and brought them back to Mom's.

Embry dug right in. I think she may have let J have some too. :)
The rest of the weekend was spent visiting, chasing kitties, and playing outside (and NOT shopping). Embry loved the huge pile of leaves in the backyard. That's my Mom with her head sticking out of the pile. We don't have any trees in our yard, so this was a new experience. We ended up going home a little early,so that Embry could recover from her allergies before school on Monday. But overall we had a pretty good time.