The first of many tough questions

Liv is increasingly self-aware.  She's getting old enough to articulate things and is started to get more and more curious about the world around her.

For example, she refuses to wear "jeans."  Many a mornings are full of LOUD protests at the suggestion.  She complains because they're "jeans" not "pants."  Whatever.  Reasoning with a 3-year old is not my strong suit and I wouldn't suggest it to anyone.

There's a little girl named Rylee at the girls' daycare.  Rylee wears jeans.  One morning, Liv announces that "I like jeans.  I'm going to wear them today. I'm going to be cool."  And the peer pressure, whether it was intentional or not, begins.

Tonight, after bath, Liv brushed her bangs out of her face and had a profound moment.  She said, "Oh no!  My poor red mark."  This is not the first time that she's noticed her angel-kiss birthmark on her forehead.  I've never wanted to make her self-conscious, so I just tell her that it's something that happened when she was growing in mom's tummy and it's special.  I don't dwell on it because I don't want her to.

When she asks me about her birthmark, inside, my heart is breaking.  She doesn't like something about herself and she's only 3.  Sure, it's not earth-shattering for her yet, and I pray that it won't ever be.  Kids are mean.  They will find anyway to tease you.  I was tall and I was teased for having pants that were always too short.  "Highwaters!"  "Where the flood?"  Stupid, mean kids.

I remember being in the hospital, holding this tiny little creature and noticing that she had red marks on her nose, eyelid and right, dead-center on her forehead.  Nate and I asked the nurses about it and they assured us it was just her getting "banged up" on her way out.  That first night, my doctor came in to check on me and Olivia, and we asked her.  She took her thumb, swiped it across the mark, watched it change colors and said "Nope.  That's a birthmark."  My heart sank.  Again.  Kids are mean.  She was perfect and beautiful and my daughter; I didn't care, but I knew people (i.e. those aforementioned mean kids) would care.  And what's worse, they could TEASE her about it.

Minutes old and already perfect.

Tonight, when she asked, I tried a different approach, mostly because she asked "how did it get when I was inside your tummy."  Thank GOD the questions wasn't "how did I get inside your tummy."

I told her:

When God decided to give you to me and let me be your mom, an angel kissed you in heaven before you was sent to grow in my tummy and live with me and dad.

She seemed satisfied with that.  And so am I.  She's going to face a thousand heartaches over a thousand different things.  I know I can't protect her from all of that, though try as I might.  Maybe I can take that thousand and bring it down to only nine-hundred or so.


Ranch Chicken

I don't know about you moms who work outside the home, but when I leave the office, I'm STARVING. I just want to get home and eat.

But Giada didn't come and prepare a feast for us to enjoy promptly at 5 PM, so I was left the the task.

I wish I had time to simmer and roasts and souffle, but it's just not in the cards for us during the week.  I need something quick - Rachel Ray's 30 Minutes Meals sometimes seems like it will take too long.  So I was thinking of what I could do with chicken, quickly.  And preferably in the oven because A. it's less mess to clean up on the stovetop and B. it will heat up our house (as we hit a whopping 1 degree here in MN today)

Something breaded always is nice; helps keep meats from drying out, and I knew I had some Panko crumbs still in the pantry that I needed to use before the went stale.  But plain Panko... BORING!

Then I thought, why try to think of a spice combination on my own when Hidden Valley had done all the hard math for me.

This may not be a new recipe to the culinary world, but it's new in my home and got rave reviews from my (no-so) picky eaters.  Liv told me I was "a wonderful chef" and I didn't have the heart to correct her!

Preheat your over to 375.  Grab your Panko breadcrumbs (you'll need about a cup or so) and a packet of ranch seasoning.

Get out a pound of chicken breasts - I split mine in half, so the 3 pieces become 6 pieces.  This way, they actually are an appropriate portion size, though I wanted to eat TWO anyway (but didn't).  Season both sides with salt and pepper.

In two shallow dishes (I used round cake pans) mix together 1 cup of Panko bread crumbs and a whole packet on ranch mix.

Take an egg in the other pan, beat lightly.

Dredge each chicken chunk in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mix.  You will get messy, but it's all for the greater good.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the breadcrumbs are nicely browned and the chicken is cooked through (duh.)  
Note: this photo does not do the awesomeness of the browned breadcrumbs.  I assure you they were amazing!


Tell me this will last

We've gotten into this habit in the morning.  I won't call it good or bad.

It's bad in that Avery is waking up early and aside from actually being able to vocally demand "Woman, get in here and give me my milk," she wants to eat right away.

Our nightly routine is that a bottle gets made.  It waits patiently for the parent who loves Avery the most that morning to rise from their slumber,
walk sleepily to the kitchen,
in the cold and dark,
and retrieve it for her.

She is carried back to our bed where she feeds herself, allowing said parents (both the one who loves loves her the most and the one who thinks she has a good personality, but they should just be friends) to rest/sleep for a few minutes longer in the cold, dark morning.

On some glorious weekend mornings, we are able to slip the milk-drunk child back into her crib where she will sleep/rest/stay quiet for up to another hour.  Yes.  The urban legend is true.

For those of you who have small children, you know that a house that stays quiet past 7 AM is a miraculous and wonderful thing.

For those of you without children who scoff at the idea of rising before 10 AM, much less 7 AM... just wait.  Soon 10 AM will be the half point in your day, and you'll soon wonder what are we doing for lunch, or oh-my-god, for dinner!  I haven't taken anything out of the freezer and the breakfast dishes are still in the sink!  You'll watch the clock and measure time until the next nap and wait for the happy dance you'll do at bedtime when everyone is snoozing and drooling.

During the week, however, we are not able to get that extra hour of sleep in, what with those pesky JOBS and all.  Income, bah.  Liv knows that she needs to get up and get ready, but she is the spawn of her parents, and waking up isn't always a quick and chipper process for her either.  She will find her way into our bed as well, with baby, Winks, blankie, book, doll, necklace and sometimes a hair brush in hand, and snuggles up with the family in the cold, dark morning.

Here's what I want to last...

Avery's contently drinking her bottle.

Liv is snuggled up with her thumb (ugh) and best "guy" of the moment.

No matter the day, Avery's hand finds it's way out and Liv's hand finds a way to grab it.  It's not encouraged or suggested by either parent (our eyes are still closed mind you.  Quiet time is quiet time, after all)  But I catch them holding hands, whether they realize it or not.

The only disappointment I have in this story is that I don't have a photo of the moment to share with you all.  Sorry - not camera ready at 6:30 in the morning!

They share this thing that sisters have.  I know I've written about sisters before, but I'm just amazed at how real it really is.  I know the day will come when they will fight (sometimes violently) over toys, clothes, boys or who knows what else, but I will do my very best to cling to this memory that for a short moment in time, they were each other's best of the best.

Valentine Mini Sessions with Heather Hanson Photography

I don't know if I've had the opportunity to share how amazing Heather is.  She's a dear friend (that lives WAY to far away) and on top of being an amazing mother and friend, she is a FANTASTIC photographer.  Before starting her photography business, you could just tell that Heather was meant to be behind the lens.  She'd post photos of her own beautiful kids on Facebook and I'd think "Wow.  Whatever she's doing, I want to capture too!"  She's my hero for so many reasons, photography only being one of them.

Heather took the plunge, got some studio space, a logo and a bunch of other business-type things and Heather Hanson Photography was born.  She took our family photos that we used on our Christmas cards - some of my favorites (I'll have to share later, as I'm realizing I never did in the first place!)

According to L was proud to be asked to join in the fun and supplied hair accessories for the shoot.  It was very cathartic to create cute little pink and red bows and flowers for this shoot - gave me a purpose for this little venture.  I stayed for all of the sessions and helped the little ones get dressed (pettirompers, bow ties and tulle skirts for DAYS).  I love having girls, but seeing those little boys in bow ties and suspenders - man oh!  Heartbreakers!  All of the kids did amazingly well - funny how they'll ham it up at home and you get in front of a camera, and suddenly your little wild child turns shy.  There were suckers and balloons - Heather really did have a wonderful set up.  I didn't want to leave (which may have had something to do with the fact that I was all alone and my kids were home with Dad!)

She'll have final photos out in a few weeks for parents to preview, but she was kind enough to send a few shots of my babies so I could share them with you here!

Avery in a white chiffon bow

Liv in a light pink bow with lace

I tried to showcase some accessories that had a very vintage feel - they went very well with the pearls and ruffles (if I do say so myself)

And I have to share Heather's darling kids as well - tell me they are the prettiest babies!?  (Besides mine.  And yours too, I'm sure!)

Sweetheart Beckham in his dapper tie and suspenders

Gorgeous Evalyn in a hot pink bow with rhinestone button
I know I'd love to promote myself here, but this is truly a shout-out for Heather.  If you need photos taken, please believe me when I say you won't be disappointed!  Her patience and grace will shine through in everything she produces for you.


Avery: Nine Months

Avery, it's hard to believe you're already nine months old.  In another 3 months, we'll all crowd around as you poke a finger into that thick, sugary frosting and wait patiently to see if you'll flick it away (like your sister did) or dig in and give us the mess we'll allow only once in your life.

You are a happy baby.  Only when you're hungry or tired, are you fussy.  You have a tendency to cling to us when we get home from work, which I secretly don't mind.  I've missed you too.

  • You weigh 21 lbs, you are in size 4 diapers and wear 18 month clothes!
  • You are 29.5 long, which puts you in the 97 percentile now, instead of being off the charts.  Good to see you're slowing down!
  • You are crawling EVERYWHERE and pulling up on EVERYTHING.  You can climb stairs, but we're always we try to be nearby to prevent the inevitable "joyful, proud bounce" you do that leads to a tip backwards off the step.
  • There are six teeth in your tiny mouth: four on the bottom and your two Bucky Beavers on top.  The fangs are almost in, but we can't call it just yet.
  • There are very few foods you refuse to eat, but over the holidays, you got some awful bug and we've been feeding you the BRAT diet.  Don't even ask how many outfits you went thru :(
  • You stand on your own for a second or two.  Note:  we are in no hurry for you to start walking!
  • Your sister is still your favorite person; however, after a weekend with your cousins Jack and Charlie, I'd say she's got some competition!
  • Your favorite game is cheap and easy:  tipping upside down in someone's arms or lap.  I wonder what you must think of this "upside-down world" but clearly, it's a fun place to be!
  • You love bath time.  I think mostly because it precedes your favorite time of day (bottle, snuggle and bedtime)
  • You say "mama" and "dada" and what sounds like "hieee" - however I'm not always convinced you know exactly why you're making the sounds you do.  You sign "milk" and we're working on "more" that I'm sure will catch on as you "clap hands" more.

  • Your first Christmas was amazingly fun for us to watch.  You tore through paper and played all Christmas morning.  You mostly ate the paper, but we know that soon those toys will get more action.
  • Some of the best things you got were a Melissa and Doug train set with blocks (perfect for chewing on); a few baby dolls (again, perfect for chewing on); sparkle boots from the Hattons, a noisy/musical puppy from Rory (you love it, we have mixed feelings) and so much more.  It was a spoiled-rotten holiday, just as it should be.
Your giggle makes my day and your sweet blue eyes make me so proud to be your mom.  You are smarter than you let on and I can't wait to see what you'll do next (which will probably be immediately followed by tearing all of the magnets off the board and dropping the on the floor - another enjoyable pastime.)

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