Downtown Weekend

M and I spent the weekend (Friday and Saturday, actually) with my mom. My Christmas gift to her was this girls’ weekend, with a stay in a fancy hotel in Minneapolis, so we could walk the skyways, shop, eat, and just hang out.

We stayed in the Grand Hotel Minneapolis, and M loved the room. She was so good-natured and flexible while we were away. She was too excited to take her afternoon nap on Friday (we had just checked into the hotel, so she was high on investigating everything and sitting on the fluffy bed), but she didn’t utter a peep of complaint the rest of the day. We brought sushi back to the room for dinner, with a rice bowl for M, and I wondered how on Earth she was going to eat without even a chair to sit in. But we put a blanket on the floor, and she happily walked around the living room, coming back to grab a piece of avocado or tofu and then toddling merrily away again. She actually ate a decent amount! She had a harder time sleeping in the Pack ‘n’ Play — it’s been about 4-5mos since she’s had to sleep in one, and I think she’s old enough now to be weirded out by how different the situation was. I could tell she was happy to be back in her own crib last night — we both slept right until 6:00am this morning. (We’re morning people — that’s practically sleeping in.)

After we checked out of the hotel yesterday, we went to Como Park Conservatory, so we could stroll around in the nice, humid air. M had a short nap on the drive over and was a little tired still while we were looking at the plants, but as soon she saw the toy section of the gift shop, she wiggled out of my arms to investigate. She grabbed the plastic okapi above, who wound up coming home with us. I have no idea why she gravitated towards this particular toy, but last night we were watching the video of her in the gift shop, and she would giggle every time she saw herself grab the okapi off the shelf. Maybe her spirit animal is a funny, stripy giraffe-thing.

I’ve got more pictures from our Minneapolis weekend on my Instagram, including a couple of short little videos. M has been a sponge for picking up new gestures/behaviors lately. She’ll rock a doll if you sing Rock-a-bye Baby, although a lot of her rocking seems a bit too vigorous to be used on a real baby. And she’s big into shaking her head ‘no’ if you suggest something she doesn’t want. Which is… sort of helpful, in a way. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this already, but she’s started wagging her finger when I scold the pets or tell her not to open a cabinet, etc. I think she originally learned that from singing Five Little Monkeys. When she does it after I remind her not to open a cupboard, I’m never sure if she’s finger-wagging to remind herself that it’s a ‘no-no’ or to tell me off for getting in her way!

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M’s Spaces

I got a couple of new pieces of furniture for M’s room (the nightstand and the dresser), so I organized all her stuff and thought I’d take a picture during the three minutes it stayed tidy. You might remember (or not) that I was using a few plastic baskets to hold her clothes, which worked well when she was smaller. But as she gets bigger, so do her clothes, and they weren’t fitting in the baskets as nicely anymore. There was a cheap dresser in her closet, but it wasn’t a very nice piece of furniture to have out in her room.

I initially wanted to buy an antique dresser (and I’m still wondering if that would have been a better choice), but I decided to get a pine one from IKEA, to match the twin bed and cabinets that were already in the room. I’m not 100% happy with it — the quality is much lower than those two older IKEA pieces. But it might look better once I’ve waxed the wood, and of course it won’t looked quite so cramped when she someday moves to the twin bed and doesn’t need the crib in there anymore. I was trying to decide what to do about drawer pulls, since I don’t like the pine ones that came with the dresser. Rob saw them lying on the floor and asked if they were mushrooms, so now I’m thinking I might paint them to look like little red-capped mushrooms — that would be cute and free.

M’s corner of the family room seems to get a little bigger every day. She also has toys up in the living room, but more of her big stuff is downstairs. She loves her tent and the cushions inside it. I’ve been tempted to put up my actual camping tent to play in for a couple of days, but I’ve decided I have to finish tidying up the family room before I start making a new mess. M’s corner is looking pretty good, but my (sewing) corner is still a disaster!

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Fourteen Months

Here’s a cute M photo for her fourteen-month update. I wasn’t going to do the updates every month after she turned one, but there’s still so much happening all the time that I don’t want to wait too long and forget stuff.

– It’s hard to remember when M couldn’t walk all around! She’s so active these days that it seems impossible that she used to be limited to crawling and cruising. One of her favorite games is I’m Going to Get That Baby, where I declare that I’m going to get that baby, and then ‘chase’ her down the hallway (while she giggles), scooping her up when we get to the end. We were playing it one day while I was cleaning the kitchen, and M kept appearing at the doorway, where she’d give me a look and then squeal before starting to run away.

– Still no words from M, although recently I asked her to say ‘siss’, and she actually repeated me. Obviously, ‘siss’, doesn’t mean anything — it’s just one of the sounds she likes making. But she’s never been a mimic when it comes to sounds, and I’ve never gotten the impression that she understands what ‘say _____’ means. Her language comprehension in general is great, though. She understands directions and picks up new words for objects easily.

– M is at a great spot for learning new skills. I got her a little pan pipe for Christmas, and she had figured out how to play it by that evening. I think it helps that she drinks through a straw, so the mouth shape wasn’t new, but she’s never had to blow into something before. She also just learned how to play ‘So Big’ (you ask her how big she is, and she throws her hands up while you say, ‘Sooooo big!’). Younger kids can learn that, but I never really did it with M. My parents were over on my birthday, so I guess they must have taught her, and she figured it out that quickly.

– She’s the perfect mix of independent and cuddly. She can play on her own for quite a while and loves to ‘read’ books by herself, but she’ll also snuggle right in and adores being held. We were sitting next to each other on the floor the other evening, and I had one arm around her middle for a minute and then moved it. She grabbed my hand and pulled my arm around herself again. She’s so good at hugs! She still kisses just by smooshing her face/forehead into people or animals.

– Speaking of animals, she’s so gentle with the cats and dogs. I’ve known much older toddlers who still didn’t know how to pet gently, but M has it totally figured out. It’s nice that Bear isn’t wary of M like the older cats are — I hope she stays that way as she grows up. M loves it when she can engage either the cats or the dogs. She bounces/throws balls for Nova in the kitchen, and will try to tempt the cats with toys, too.

– M has had six teeth (four on top, two on the bottom) for months now. Just today, I noticed another tooth poking through on the bottom. I wonder if it’ll be like last time, when all four of the top teeth came through right around the same time — maybe there are molars waiting to come in, too.

– My mom gave me a popcorn tin for Christmas, and now M’s favorite food is popcorn. I try to bite off the kernel-y bit and give her just the melt-away tops, but if I take too long, she’ll help herself to more. Popcorn can be tricky for little kids, so I watch her like a hawk, but this nice, fluffy stuff hasn’t given her any trouble. I think it’s probably her favorite treat, at the moment!

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Happy Holidays

What a busy time of year! Rob flew in on Sunday, I had a very nice birthday on Monday, and M and I drove down to the cities today for Christmas celebrations. There’s pretty much NO snow outside, which is weird, but at least the house is feeling quite festive indoors.

It’s hard to believe I found the time to make salt dough prints last December, when M was ~1.5mos (she turned 2mos last Christmas Eve, so she’s 14mos today), but I’m glad I have that tiny footprint preserved. Isn’t it amazing how much her feet have grown in the last year? I also found a handprint from 2013 the other day — I thought I hadn’t got one, since those little hands don’t usually want to open up like that. I’ll have to take a photo to compare it to the one we made this year (pictured above). Her entire hand just about fits in the palm of this year’s print.

My plan, as M gets older, is to stay at home for the holidays. I don’t want to do Santa, but I’ve been having fun thinking up new traditions and fun surprises. It’ll still be a few years before M is really ready for all those things, but I’m sure that that time will be here before I know it!

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Salt Dough Ornaments

For the real Christmas tree downstairs, I figured I’d decorate with whatever I already had, plus some handmade ornaments. And it doesn’t get much cheaper and easier than salt dough! I used this recipe, except I used white whole wheat flour (some really old stuff that was too wheat-y for making Christmas cookies… a couple of years ago), and it soaked up more water. I’ve made salt dough a couple of times before to capture M’s footprints. I did one last December, when her feet were sooo tiny, and then again when she was six months old.

I haven’t painted most of the ornaments yet, but I did finish up these paw print ones, and M worked on a couple of gingerbread men. I’m really happy with the paws — I wasn’t sure how many of the pets would cooperate, but they all did a great job, and the impressions came out really clearly. I like to paint the prints, since even if you get a nice, deep impression, it can sort of disappear if the lighting isn’t right. You have to be careful and quite neat with the paint, though, or it’ll look really sloppy!

I’m happy to have something from the pets on the tree! It’s a little funny that they all fit on the same size ornament shape. Beany has the smallest paw, and Henny has the biggest (the cat prints are red, and the dogs’ are green). But the dogs are actually smaller than the cats (well, except for Bear) — their feet are just less delicate.

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Wintery Baby Cat Stuff

I hope it won’t bother the fine folks who follow me on Instagram that I’ve been pulling a lot of photos from there for my posts lately. It’s hard to get clear shots of a toddler with a DSLR when it’s cloudy and the days are short. And the best camera is the one you have with you, as they say.

We went to the Minneapolis Holiday Market on Sunday, which was very German and fun — and chilly, of course. But there were just enough indoor spaces to stop it being miserable. Then we (M, my mom, and I) went to Santaland in the downtown Macy’s. M seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t freaked out by all the animatronic elves. I pointed out all the mechanical cats and dogs to her, and then we tried to call them over (M pats her tummy to call the pets over at home). We didn’t do a Santa photo, as A) I really couldn’t care less, B) I don’t plan on ‘doing Santa’ with M, and — most importantly — C) I know M would have FREAKED OUT.

We were in town for a hip appointment — still some progress to make there, but no surgery in the near future, whew — and on the way home, we stopped at the local nursery and bought a real Christmas tree. I have the white one upstairs, so I put this one down in the family room. I haven’t had a real tree in probably twenty years, so it’s a lot of fun. I definitely had evergreen-scent-induced childhood Christmas flashbacks.

Bear has been such a good little cat lately, especially since the new tree’s branches are too densely packed for her to climb. I’m trying to reintroduce Bear and Birdy, which is going… so-so. I thought we’d made a lot of progress — Birdy seemed to compulsively attack Birdy before, and she’s been getting better control over that. There was a scary incident yesterday that I should have been able to avoid, but it doesn’t look like Bear got scratched up, and she bounced right back afterward. Two steps forward, one step back. It definitely showed me what Birdy’s threshold is for being ‘tempted’ (when Bear runs across the room, she might as well be a mouse, as far as Birdy is concerned). Anyway, Bear is a irrepressibly cheerful kitten, and I discovered last night that she’s really good at playing fetch.

And she lets M kiss her and cuddle her and try to pick her up, so that’s adorable.

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Around the House

I just titled this post ‘Around the House’ because it feels like we’ve been all snug at home this week, but actually we were out on Tuesday, to get the second half of M’s flu shot. And we ran some errands yesterday. But mostly we’ve been staying in. It’s been chilly lately, and I had a guy come over on Monday to look at what we could do to make the house more efficient (ie, how to stop all the heat from escaping). They’re going to air-seal the attic and blow in new insulation on top of that, hopefully later this month. Apparently new windows, doors, etc are rarely needed as long as you’ve got a tight lid on the house — so I’m excited about that.

I was going to wait another year to do the Playmobil Advent calendar I bought last December, but I gave in. M has no idea what it’s all about, of course, but she still gets a kick out of seeing the new little whatsit each morning. And I love miniature stuff, so obviously I was buying it for myself in the first place. Once we get bored looking at it, I can just pack each piece back up into its little cubby, and it’ll be ready to go for another year. She’ll never know. (Playmobil makes a bunch of different Advent sets — I think this particular one must have been discontinued, as it’s more expensive now.)

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of how funny M is. She lost her balance when she went to pick up Kitty Cat Doll the other day, so she decided to just stay on the ground and take the opportunity to give Kitty Cat Doll a long cuddle. I finally ordered a second one (it’s the cat from Moulin Roty’s Les Zazous collection), just in case. Hopefully we’ll never lose Kitty Cat Doll, and to be honest, as much as M really does love her more than any other toy, I think she’d adopt something different just fine — at this age, at least. But I think it’ll also be amusing to have a ‘control’ Kitty Cat Doll to compare M’s to as it gets more and more raggedy. Plus, I think it’ll blow M’s mind if I show her them both at the same time.

Anyway, she really clicked with the tent recently, and she likes to take stuff she finds and stash it in there. I gave her an ornament she spotted on my bedroom shelves today, and she carried it all the way to the other side of the house to put it in her little nest. Between the tent and her new-found love for wedging herself into her Bumbo chair, she’s been enjoying playing downstairs a lot lately.

Oh, last thing — Bear climbs up on the backs of the kitchen chairs, just like Beany. I don’t know if this is just a ‘cat’ thing to do (although I’ve never seen any other cat do it) or if she actually learned from watching Beany. Beany does enjoy showing off, and I think she likes having a rapt audience as she walks along the railings upstairs.

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Kitchen Cupboard Topper

Thank you for all the supportive comments on the last post. I’m really excited to see a lot of you guys over on Instagram! It’s a different sense of community, for sure; I like having everybody else’s photos right at my fingertips. And I can post little video snippets, which wasn’t quite so easy here. I need to add an Instagram link to my sidebar, but for now, here it is again: link!

I took this kitchen photo a while back, but I forgot to post it. I built a little storage crate for the new cupboard topper. I actually plan to have two in this cabinet (one on either end) and then a few more when I eventually build toppers for the rest of the kitchen. But I figured it made the most sense to build them all at the same time, so I can get the painting out of the way in one go. I used Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (the color is Eulalie’s Sky) and the same brand of antiquing wax. I had to be quite careful to use a light touch with the wax, as the thin coat of paint I used would have happily absorbed the very dark color of the wax. I’m thrilled with the way it turned out, though! I figured it was better to build something myself that would make the most of the space, since a store-bought basket probably would have left a lot unused at the back.

I still have a bit of touch-up painting to do on the cabinet topper — and then a bunch more of them to build!

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M Lately (13-ish Months)

– M is into everything these days. She figured out how to open the lower cupboard doors in the kitchen (I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner!), and now I keep finding canning lids all over the place. I’ll be ordering some latches soon! M’s other favorite naughty activity is playing with the pets’ water dish. She’s started bringing over cups to help her empty it out more efficiently. I haven’t come up with a solution to this, since I can’t put the water up high, and if I block it off in some way, it’ll scare Henny. Right now I have a gate up so M can’t access it from the side, which at least cuts down her water play by about 75%.

– M has expanded her selection of acceptable fruit pouches, and she gets really excited when she sees them. She’s a little more open to eating veggies in prepared dishes, but fruit is easier in the pouches. We had a good stretch where she would eat a large serving of baby oatmeal from a refillable pouch in the morning and yogurt from the same in the afternoon, but she’s totally over oatmeal for now, and yogurt is hit or miss. She’s getting better at using utensils, though, and I can put her food in a dish without her instantly tipping it out.

–She’s really starting to enjoy the tent I made for her birthday, especially with all the cushions inside. She’ll go inside and just lounge for a bit, or she’ll bring stuff in to play with. I put down her ‘old’ play mat the other day, and she instantly went over to sit on it, and she kept bringing her toys over to it all afternoon. She’s also been revisiting the Bumbo chair — if she keeps one leg under herself, she can get out when she’s done sitting. If both legs go through the spaces, though, she gets stuck, which is very frustrating for her (and, it seems, a little embarrassing).

– M is really steady on her feet now (compared to a few weeks ago, anyway), and she’s building up some speed, too. She’s just starting to realize that she can get down and explore when we’re out running errands, but she’s still pretty good about sitting in the cart. Being the master disorganizer she is, she’d tear a store apart in a flash, so she can’t be on her feet too much of the time.

– I’ve decided to switch around which photos I post here and on my Instagram. My account there is now private, but I’ll add any requests that seem legit. I won’t be posting many photos of M’s face here anymore — it just feels better. I’ve really struggled with balancing M’s privacy with a desire to share all the fun, cute stuff. There are bloggers I don’t respect much who really overshare with seemingly no regard for their child’s future wishes (or safety!). But then there are others — who I think of as being very sensible and cautious — who also post a lot of kid photos (usually pretty restrained ones). So it’s hard to know how much is too much. I’ve tried to be guided by what I would want kept private if it were me instead of M. Anyway, for now, it feels more comfortable to stop posting so many photos of her face, since I can’t control who’s looking. That makes sense, right?

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Day After Thanksgiving Feast

We had a great Thanksgiving Day at my cousin’s yesterday. She served an amazing meal, and my mom made some beautiful desserts, but M and I woke up this morning with no leftovers — and worse, NO PIE. I don’t see what the point of being thankful even is if you don’t get to have pie for breakfast the next day. I also realized that yesterday had been missing green bean casserole, and that got me thinking about what my perfect Thanksgiving feast would look like. And who says you can’t cook up a storm the day after Thanksgiving?

M and I had to make a trip to the big box store to get groceries, and the place was delightfully deserted. We went fairly early (not for us, but for shopping in general), and it was much emptier than a normal weekday. I let M peruse the aisles a little bit, but she really wasn’t making wise choices. If it had been up to her, we would have feasted on muffin mix, box cake, ramen, and some weird, brightly-colored kids’ drink. I suppose that’s why babies aren’t usually in charge of the shopping.

What we DID have: crockpot mac ‘n’ cheese, green bean casserole, chicken-fried tofu bits, and cranberry dressing. I used this recipe for the mac ‘n’ cheese, and I wound up having to wing it with the tofu. I was going to use a packet of batter, but I didn’t realize until right as I was about to open it that there was a small ‘Spicy!’ label on the side. I figured it wasn’t worth risking it being too hot for M, so I made my own mixture with flour, cornmeal, and some (non-spicy) spices. I pan fried the pieces, and to my surprise, they didn’t wind up too greasy or completely charred. They’re quite tasty, actually. I always think that cold, cooked tofu tastes like cold chicken (I’m sure it probably doesn’t), so I’m interested to try the leftovers straight from the fridge. I made a plate with some of everything for M, and she ate it ALL. I thought she’d turn her nose up at the cranberry sauce (it’s a little tart), but she came back to it after eating everything else and managed to finish it.

I also made a pumpkin pie, using the Libby’s recipe… except that I keep forgetting to buy more ginger, so I tossed in a little extra cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom instead. I made a shortening pie crust — butter tastes better, but I love how light a shortening crust is, and it’s so much easier to work with. The pie looks and tastes just perfect. I feel like my crusts usually get a little overcooked, even when I try to shield them, but I got lucky this time.

All in all, I think I can declare our Day After Thanksgiving feast a win!

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