Saturday, March 19, 2016


This year, we discovered that Netflix has (pre-recorded) New Year's Eve countdowns for kids. Since none of us are usually awake past 10:30pm in this house (including the adults), that was the perfect alternative to actually trying to stay up until midnight. So we watched a 90 second video with a countdown, cheered for the New Year, then all went to bed :)

As I mentioned in Audra's last post, we went to an ice sculpture competition during one of the warmer days of the month. We went pretty early in the day so we didn't get to see the completed sculptures, but it was still pretty cool (no pun intended) to see the different sculptures taking shape... it was just very wet there since all of the ice was melting too.

There were a fair number of people there, include various entertainers. So Josie got to see a unicyclist for the first time (not even knowing that her own dad can ride a unicycle too!), and also saw "the Ice King", which was a man on stilts all dressed up like a male version of Elsa, dancing to "Uptown Funk". Josie absolutely did not know what to make of him, and hid behind me despite/because of his attempts to try to dance with her... and then talked about him the rest of the week (why did that tall man look at me? why was that tall man dancing? why is he the Ice King?).
And Audra wasn't the only one who licked the ice - Josie maybe even instigated that little bit of embarrassment for me.

Conveniently, it was still pretty warm out when our bare root plants were delivered to us, so Ryan was able to put them straight into their permanent spots. We ended up having to replace several of the perennials in the garden due to snow damage, drowning, and what I suspect (although Ryan doesn't agree) was reacting to black walnut mulch. So we replaced the dead peach tree with a multi-graft "fruit salad" (peach, nectarine, plum, and apricot), replaced the multi-graft cherry tree with a different multi-graft cherry tree (bing and two other varieties), and replaced all of the raspberries and some of the blackberries. And although pictures of bare trees in the winter aren't all that exciting, here are some pictures anyway :)

[Fruit salad - we'll see how this one does, since a lot of secondary branches were broken during transport]



[The apple tree - although we thought we were going to lose it last year, it's still alive so far!]

We also got two of the permanent residents in the greenhouse, so we'll see if we can grow (and I can maintain in dwarf form) a mulberry bush and fig tree :) Ryan also finished building shelves in the greenhouse, so we're pretty much ready to actually start growing things in there. There is still a bit more work to do to organize the greenhouse, and Ryan's planning on installing my outdoor shower in there (making it slightly less "outdoor" that way, but giving it some more privacy without having to build a separate structure for it), but it's really starting to come together now... and is super solid, so it hasn't collapsed during bad weather like the first greenhouse did.

[Fig on the left, mulberry on the right]

Speaking of the greenhouse withstanding bad weather, that was proven when we got our big snowstorm - over three feet of snow dumped on us over a couple of days, and the roof didn't collapse on the greenhouse (or on the house either, for that matter).

[Just the tips of the apple and cherry trees are sticking out of the snow]

The snow started on a Thursday, and we didn't get dug out until Tuesday, finally getting back to relative normal on Wednesday. We had plenty of advance warning, so at least we were able to adequately prepare ourselves for being snowed in for almost a week :) And by that, I mainly mean that when Josie's school closed early ahead of the storm, Josie and I picked up Chinese food (so we'd have plenty of leftovers) and ran (literally) to the grocery store for ice cream while our food was being made. Almost everyone else was stocking up on essentials (and toilet paper and duct tape, probably); meanwhile, we went through the line with a single half-gallon of Moose Tracks. Although another family from Josie's school was behind us with a single can of baked beans, so I guess we weren't alone in choosing a slightly odd way to prepare ;)

We had a freezer full of food, a prepped generator, and enough activities at home to keep us busy already, so really the biggest issue we had was clearing the driveway. Our driveway is so long that if we can't keep up with clearing the snow away by plowing, it's a huge job to have to do it by hand if it gets higher than our tractor can handle... as Ryan found out the hard way :( He stayed up most of the first night to plow, and the snow was just falling so fast that he eventually had to abandon the last third or so of the driveway to at least be able to keep up with the rest of it.

So we quickly fell into a rhythm of bundling up multiple times throughout the day to play in the snow and work on the driveway, and explore our new landscape. Josie wanted to stay outside (even during blizzard conditions), and had a lot of fun eating snow, making snow angels, and sledding off the retaining wall. We also had some "snow day freebies", where we did unusual things (for us, at least) because we were snowed in. So we watched a few movies (mainly Star Wars), had daily ice cream, and I even made pancakes for breakfast one morning. So while we didn't get much work done, and clearing the driveway was physically taxing, I think we still had a pretty good week together :)

[Watching the snow fall]

[Ryan working on the driveway, Josie patiently waiting for someone to pull her on the sled]

[Looking over the pond]
[Taking a snowy nap]

[Looking out over the driveway]

[Our road actually got plowed after only a couple of days this time!]

[Frozen river]
Besides all that, this month I started physical therapy to address my shoulder injury (which I initially sustained getting ready for Josie's birthday party in July, and then re-aggravated getting ready for Thanksgiving), so I was going twice a week to try to build stability for my rotator cuff, and also to try to learn proper posture, since, during the course of working on my shoulder, my physical therapist also noted I constantly have my shoulders rounded forward and up by my ears. Since I'd rather not have a hunchback (which seemed to be the direction I was heading), I'm really thankful that I went to physical therapy just for that. We also learned how to tape my back to help encourage me to use the right muscles, and Josie helpfully decided she would take ownership of that task, and repeatedly watched the videos I have of my physical therapist explaining how to do the taping, and even did it once for me :)

Josie had a rather emotionally traumatic month. She was cleaning up after dinner at Wegman's one night and accidentally lost her ring in the trash. She was inconsolable when we couldn't see it in the trash to pull it out and I refused to dig through the whole trash can to find it... although she finally calmed down when I suggested we come up with a plan, which was that she would use her own money to buy a replacement ring. So we later embarked on an epic quest to find rings (they were surprisingly difficult to find!), finally finding the perfect Frozen rings at our third stop (Party City was the answer, by the way).

Josie also revealed more of her beautiful, sensitive soul.... and started refusing to watch movies that were too scary or sad (I understand this, seeing as how I've never watched the end of "Old Yeller"). We watched up through Mufasa's death in The Lion King, then she turned it off and just sobbed, and was sad since she said there was no movie she could watch (since she turned off Cinderella when she saw how mean the stepmother was, and now The Lion King). Perhaps that was a mistake on my part too - I had forgotten how upsetting it can be to see (even make-believe) characters die or people being mean. This is what it looks like to not be desensitized to these things, I guess... poor thing.

[Unrelated picture, but this is Josie being sad since I don't let her do anything fun]

And yet... this girl likes being scared when it's not due to a scary movie, at least. I was demonstrating to her how quietly I could tiptoe, and snuck up behind her, grabbed her, and apparently scared her pretty good. She screamed so loudly that I instantly felt terrible... and then she immediately asked me to do it again. She and Audra had fun playing this month, playing lots of games together, like kitties (where they both crawl around on the floor and meow) and hide and seek. I also gave Josie my laptop so she could write, and it was so cool to see how resourceful she was in figuring out what words to write, since she grabbed one of her books to look up words in. She wrote that she is a big sister, and she is a very very very good girl. So fun to see little insights into her mind :)

Miscellaneous cuteness:
 [I don't remember what we were doing here, but she's being cute, so...]

Saturday, March 12, 2016

23 Months


In looking through my pictures from January, I was most struck by the apparent differences in weather over the course of the month, so I'll start there for my recap of Audra's 23rd month :)

Early January was unseasonably warm, so we went out to see an ice sculpture competition... when it was 50 degrees out. Not that I'm complaining that we weren't freezing as we walked around, it was just a little strange, and I imagine it made it a little more difficult to make ice sculptures when the ice is melting that much faster. Audra loves ice, so she especially had fun... and we probably shouldn't have been too surprised when she licked the ice snowman right after I took the picture below ;)

And then came the snow: the next weekend, we had a snowstorm... and not just any snowstorm, but one that broke the total snowfall records for our area. We were housebound for days, and got very well-practiced with suiting up to go outside :)

[These are not Audra's clothes]

[These are]

Audra was excited about the snow at first, but then got very upset about being cold (which is pretty much how I feel about snow too). She did like making snow angels, though, which was hilarious to see her just drop wherever she was standing, flail around on the ground a bit, and then destroy whatever angel-like creation she had made when she tried to stand back up while hampered by all her puffy layers of clothes. She also liked the snow just fine when I was carrying her around (yelling "big snow!" or "birdie!" in my ear almost the whole time), and liked it even better once it started melting and created lots of slushy puddles for stomping in ;)

Audra came down with a cold while we were all at home, so she got an extra day home with us even after her daycare was open again. Before that, she had actually slept through the night a couple of nights in a row, but with all of her coughing and congestion, she ended up waking up a lot again overnight. She was in fairly good spirits despite looking pretty rough, but she didn't have much of an appetite, and her naps were a little hit-or-miss. One time she had troubles falling asleep (only falling asleep once she had worn herself out more, then come back to bed and held hands with me), and another time she fell asleep very quickly and slept for a couple of hours before waking up happy... but getting scared (understandably so) by Ryan talking to us through the video camera in her room, so she threw herself onto me and promptly fell back asleep for another hour and a half.

She also had her first (and hopefully last) experience with nursemaid's elbow. We had made it this far without her having any issues with this like Josie did, but Audra tried to make a break for it while crossing the street with Ryan and he didn't let go... so, yeah. She wasn't able to use her right arm at all, so we immediately packed everyone back up in the car and headed straight over to urgent care. Poor thing was so upset and hurting, and just cried the whole time we were there (even while nursing). The doctor couldn't even tell if her manipulations had fixed Audra's arm since she was still so upset, so we had to stay for a while longer to make sure she was ok before we were cleared to go. Audra still wouldn't use her arm, but then I apparently hit upon the proper motivation for her: I asked her to go get me a tissue (I was crying too), and she hopped right up, used her right arm to grab the tissue, and immediately perked up again once she realized she wasn't hurting :)

We then had an impromptu picnic in the lobby of the building where the urgent care office is, since we had been attempting to get lunch before we took our detour to urgent care. Audra was still coming off her cold at that point and didn't have much of an appetite, but she ate a little bit and had fun playing hide and seek with Josie :) There are a couple of restaurants that both girls consistently eat really well at that we deploy as needed if they haven't had a good eating weekend. Sushi is one of them, and Eggspectations is one of the others (which is where we had been trying to go when Audra's elbow got hurt), so we did sushi that night instead, and it worked like a charm - she finally ate well for the first time in several days ;) Audra and I also went out for lunch with just the two of us, and had a perfectly lovely time together... although she was quite messy by time she was done.

Audra has been even more communicative, and it's astonishing how observant she seems to be and how well she is able to articulate her thoughts already. She said "hold neck, booboo" when she saw me holding my neck, "bite shower" when she pretended her fish was biting the shower curtain, "pool cue down", "'puter down, here [pats couch next to her]" when she wants us to stop whatever we're doing and play with her already. She also loves being tickled, and regularly asks for that ("tickah me!"), which I just don't get. Every color (and the act of coloring) is currently "yellow", and pool is known as "yellow ball", which she quite likes since she helps Ryan by putting the balls back on the table for him (except the cue ball is known as "not that one!"). Her numbers are still pretty jumbled, but she fairly consistently will say a set of them together ("one, two, three" or "six, seven, eight").
Audra also seems to understand the concept of rooms, since she can identify the kitchen, Audra's room, and Josie's room. She also seems to recognize emotions ("baby crying, baby sad"), and gets concerned whenever Josie's crying. Audra actually answers questions too ("Is the baby sad or happy?" "Baby sad," while looking at a picture of a crying baby), although the answer to yes/no questions is almost always "no", even when "yes" would be in her best interests ;)

Speaking of "no", Audra has been feeling her emotions more lately... this a rather euphemistic way of saying that her tantrums are intensifying. I imagine her two- and three-year-old years will be rather challenging, at this rate ;) She has always seemed to feel the emotional extremes more, laughing so hard at the things she finds funny (like when we touched fingers and I jumped) and screaming so hard about the things that upset her (like when I told her to stay in her room for bedtime). She also apparently holds grudges now, since Ryan wouldn't let her onto the bag with her milk in it for daycare on the way to the car... they then drove all the way to daycare, and she still wouldn't look at him or say good-bye when he dropped her off.

She tests her limits like no other (as she should be!), with my favorite being when she repeated "No drink bubbles, Audra" after me, and then locked eyes with me while she drank soapy water... which, by the expression on her face, I think she won't be doing again too soon ;) She also tells on herself and others now, telling Ryan "Mommy hit light" when I accidentally hit a lamp, or "Audra broke it" when Ryan was talking about the cabinet door that the girls broke in an overly-enthusiastic game of hide and seek in the cabinet where we normally keep our trash (sigh). Ryan also nudged her out of the way when she was blocking a cabinet once, and now every time she gets upset, she says "Daddy hit Audra!" And if I respond "Daddy didn't actually hit you", she moves on down the line: "Mommy hit!" "No, Mommy didn't hit you." "Josie hit!" "That's true, but not this time."

As for me, I finally stopped pumping at work. I was down to only pumping once a day anyway so I thought it wouldn't be much of a transition, but I'm still feeling strangely sad about it and a bit unmoored without that break built into each day. Then again, it is nice to be able to work uninterrupted (by that, at least), and so we'll just see how things go with continuing to nurse just when we're at home together now.

Miscellaneous cuteness:
[She likes her car seat better when it's not in the car]
[Audra is definitely too big for her doll stroller]

[Pretending to be a baby cat? And then scared of a dirtbug]

Saturday, March 5, 2016


We had a few highs and lows in December. Rather predictably, Josie was thrilled with Christmas, as she loves anything having to do with presents and special treats. However - and probably not that coincidentally - Josie was actually a bit more difficult around and just after Christmas, pushing her boundaries more and actually being a little unpleasant (so unusual for her!). She started copping more of an entitled attitude, and began learning the unpleasant (but oh-so-necessary) lesson that the things she's given or earned still need to fit within the normal rules and routines, since she had determined on her own that she got to do whatever she wanted with her presents and didn't have to listen to us when she played with them.

Things came to a head just after Christmas, with the giant blowout fight she had with Ryan (when she wanted to play with some new toys in a way Ryan specifically told her not to do, otherwise he'd throw them out... and then she did, and then he did), which led to her threatening retaliation against him, and then saying that she wanted him to go outside and never come back. It was ugly. We also realized that her attitude seemed to deteriorate the more screen time she got, so we had to make a few quick adjustments to get things back on track.

So we implemented a marble system for screen time: she gets three marbles each morning, with the potential for more if she does something extra special, or fewer if she's particularly poky or obstinate, with each marble worth five minutes of screen time. I was afraid there would be too much complicated accounting of marbles, but it has actually worked surprisingly well. Essentially, she's back to not having any screen time during the week unless it's during the 20 minutes I walk on the treadmill a couple of times a week, and then she gets some time on the weekends, with very little negotiations since she understands the assigned value of each marble and what happens when the time runs out.

Happily, her attitude has improved and she's back to talking and singing to herself incessantly whenever she gets a few minutes to herself, rather than her always trying to play on her tablet. And we also gained a family shorthand to understanding just how mad Josie is - if she starts suggesting that the offending party has to sleep outside, then we know she is VERY mad.

Before all that, we did have a very nice Christmas ;) We had Christmas with my family just before Christmas, then Christmas morning at our house, and the rest of the day at Ryan's parents' house. Josie was so excited about just about all of her presents... until she got to the end of the first present-opening session and asked where her yoyo and lip balm were that she had asked for, so she got an early lesson in disappointment ;) She got the yoyo from us later, though, so at least there was that.

Christmas, Part 1:

Christmas, Part 2:

[Needs more cowbell!]

Christmas, Part 3:

Josie's school had a holiday party that I went to just before Christmas, which was just adorable. I gathered that she was working on something at school for the party, given that she told me pretty much every day leading up to it that there was a surprise that she's not supposed to tell me about ;) The kids had learned a medley of Christmas songs that they performed (Josie's very serious exaggerated enunciation of "button nose" was unexpectedly hilarious), and then we did a craft afterwards.

This year was also the first year that she went to "The Nutcracker" with Ryan's side of the family. She did really well for the first half, but then she got pretty antsy during the Sugar Plum/Cavalier dance(s), and kept saying it was the longest dream ever and why wasn't the dance over... I sometimes wondered the same thing during that part, so I don't blame her, but I wish she'd hadn't announced her impatience quite so loudly ;) Other little tidbits from her first Nutcracker experience: asking why the mouse was so angry, squealing "oooh, pretty!" at the different outfits, asking why the dancers were showing their belly buttons, and asking where the shirt was for one of the male dancers. She was clearly focusing on the important parts of the ballet ;)
Josie also had a dance performance of her own at school. She seemed to do really well following directions and focusing, and she did such a good job and tried so hard that it made my heart hurt. While she still doesn't show us too much of what she has learned or talk about ballet really at all at home, the performances seem to show that she does enjoy it and has learned quite a bit, so that's good enough for me :)

Josie started a new routine of bringing a book in the car so that she could read on the way to school - this is a much more enjoyable experience for me (at least) from her previous car routine: peppering me with questions (why did we miss the light? why are those wipers swishing like that? why is that a school bus?). So she reads as much as she can, and spells out the words she needs help with, and does an impressively good job with this. One morning, she even decided to start singing her book "What the Ladybird Heard", which was really cool to see how she played with the rhythm and words, as she repeated some to make it work better as a song. Speaking of singing, I'm also pretty sure she was singing about gluten when she woke up one morning (Gluuuuten, it's what you always saaaaid).

As for the rest of us, the big news from December is that I got rear-ended, so that was fun. After getting stuck in almost an hour of traffic on the way home on the 23rd, I finally made it to the exit for Josie's school before someone decided to not participate in the "stop" part of "stop and go traffic" and crashed into the car behind me, who then hit me. I just banged my head on my head rest and the back of my car got dented up, so it seemed more of an annoyance than anything, especially since the other guy's insurance paid for everything... so I was surprised to learn that it nearly totaled my car, with nearly $6k of repairs and over a month with a rental car. I didn't have any lasting damage on my part, although one good thing came out of it - this finally prompted me to go to my doctor, and I ended up leaving with a referral to a physical therapist to address the shoulder injury that has prevented me from doing yoga for the last few months (which is how I almost caught up on the blog, using my 2 hours weekly of yoga time as writing time instead).

We also finally started with a cleaning service. I have just not been able to do my cleaning chores properly or consistently since Audra was born, and while I had given up on trying a long time ago (basically just running Roomba a couple times a week and cleaning only under duress before we hosted events), I still didn't like seeing a layer of dust on everything. So, now we have a cleaning service come every other week, which is great - I particularly enjoy skipping through the house (no, really) afterwards, admiring all the things I don't have to clean, and all the beds I don't have to make ;) So although I can't imagine we'll be doing this forever, I'll enjoy it while it lasts!

Miscellaneous cuteness:
[Wacky day at school, with the owl craft we made together]
[Trimming the tree]
[Outtakes of the Christmas pictures]
[Wearing Ryan's new welding helmet]

[We perhaps watch too much Peppa Pig in this house ;)]