Friday, December 30, 2011

I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. . .

Me too, me too.
Aurelia and Ari as Ari and Uzi

The Originals
One of my ultimate favorite things about living "back home" is the chance to see friends when they come home for visits.  You know those friends that would be part of your regular crew if you only lived about 5 hours closer to each other?  That's how we feel about Team Cheney.  And of course, it's always nice to have a chance to shamelessly exploit our children for a cute photo op.  

And Cheney, we need to have a little chat.  Ari was definitely going for the hand hold in that first photo.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All is calm, all is bright

Ah, Christmas.  I feel like I'm still basking in the gloriousness of the holiday.  It was a fantastic week, weekend, and day.  And I think that I'm upgrading the week between Christmas and New Year's to one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I love the time to relax after all the hustle and bustle and reflect over the last year.  What a great chance to start things out refreshed and ready to tackle new goals.   But first, let's talk some more about Christmas.

I have to admit, in the days leading up to December 25th there was a little too much hustle and bustle for me.  I don't know if it's my overly emotional state (i.e. I cried at Home Alone and Elf), our tendency to pack too much in to too little time (i.e. morning shopping trip with sister, movie with the family, and Zoolights all in the same day), my diet of fruitcake and bonbons, or the fact that we're doing all of this with a teething, napping, generally high needs little one who has gone to sleep in a pack-n-play or carseat every night for the last week. . . but my whelmage meter was definitely verging on brink of meltdown around Friday night.  Poor Joey had to deal with this very emotional woman who finally reached her limit when the one thing I couldn't handle was plugging my phone into the charger before crashing into bed.  Thankfully, I woke up the next morning further away from the ledge.  The turning point was the message on the front of the cards we delivered to our neighbors with their plates of cookies, "All is calm, all is bright."  It turned out to be a nice little mantra for me over the next 48 hours.  Not only did it remind me to take a deep breath, but it reminded me that the hustle and bustle is supposed to be part of the celebration of "the dawn of redeeming grace." And our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day turned out to be fairly low key and very enjoyable.

Here are some Christmas 2011 highlights:

-Yes, we delivered cookies to our neighbors (as required by the list).  Granted, it wasn't quite the overture I had planned.  I scaled it back from delivering to all 16 houses on our street to just our immediate neighbors.  I whipped up nutmeg logs, no bake cookies, earl grey tea cookies, and some chocolate chips Saturday morning and had them all delivered by 1:00.  It was very fun and I think we'll make it a tradition.
Mid baking break time cuddles.

- Although there wasn't nearly enough snow, we had a fun three days at the cabin with sister Sarah, Padraig and Craig.  Since Sarah and Craig both work the school calendar, it was nice to get some time away with them.

Leavenworth at Christmas? Yes please!
- Zoolights.  Definitely an idea we'll revisit in the future.  Definitely an idea that needed better planning.  With three separate vehicles, two running late (Craig was heading to Enchanted Lights), one tired baby, one toddler that wants OUT of the stroller, one starving pregnant woman, and a whole lot of searching for our group in the dark, we were not set up for success.  It was still fun.

Yaya, Nono and Paddy.

- I love our church's Christmas Eve service: the lighting of the last advent candle, the jubilant singing of carols, the candlelit singing of Silent Night.  It's really lovely, just the right amount of tradition, Truth, and beauty.  

Family Christmas pic.  And yes, I AM wearing leggings and I LOVE them now!

Precious father daughter moments.

Yes, she's missing a shoe.  I don't think you could handle the cuteness otherwise.
The whole family.
 - Every family has traditions.  We open PJ's the night before Christmas and eat Tortellini Soup after church.  We sleep as late as the youngest allow Christmas morning (7:00 AM this year, I know it will only get earlier).  And for our little family unit of 3, we each get four gifts: a want, a need, a wear and a read.


Aurelia's wear was a Panda Hat from Ganesh Himal
- When we have a Pandiani family Christmas, Sarah and I do all the cooking besides the prime rib.  This year we had cinnamon rolls, scones, biscuits, chocolate pudding, eggs, and sausage for breakfast.  Dinner was made up of prime rib, sweet potato and quinoa salad, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, ambrosia, sweet carrots, apple pie and the best pecan pie I've ever made.

- I love giving the perfect gift.  You know when you see something and know that it's just the perfect thing for mom/dad/sister/husband/etc?  I almost don't like getting a gift list 'cause I love doing the search on my own.  We got my dad Blazing Saddles and The Three Amigos to which he exclaimed, "This is the thing!  Is this coming to my house?"  You know it's a good gift when English becomes a second language.  Joey's want: A cocktail shaker.  His need: A bottle of Black Label.  His wear: An ECS membership (it comes with a scarf and a shirt).  And his read: A cocktail book (Disclaimer: Joey's gift has a bit of a distilled theme.  We've been watching a lot of Mad Men recently).  And, well, just one look at Paddy's face shows that Rody was a success.

It was a great, great day.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing you and yours

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying family, friends, food, and other frivolities.  
I'll be back and blogging next week.  In the meantime, there's some fruitcake with my name on it.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Where does the time go?  Is Christmas really less than a week away?  I had all these glorious plans to be completely prepped and prepared for Christmas with time to spare.  Shopping done, gifts wrapped, cards sent, cookies baked, merriment made, feet up, eggnog in hand. . . but I'm no where near ready.  Instead I find myself trimming nonessentials off my list (like all matching wrapping paper, hand addressed Christmas cards, and a partridge in a pear tree).  Honestly, I haven't even hung stockings.  Honestly, I can't even find Joey and my stockings.  At least the tree is trimmed.

And on top of all this, I'm 32 weeks pregnant.  I feel quite large, quite clumsy, and quite tired.  And I've started having some super fun contractions about twice a day.  Doctor says this is quite normal and that I shouldn't worry.  I keep reminding this baby she needs to stay in for at least a few weeks. . . please, stay put!  If I'm not ready for Christmas, I'm definitely not ready to have another baby!  I can't help but think that I'm not the first mother who wanted her baby to stay put for a little while longer.  I can't imagine Mary planned on delivering in a manger.  I'm sure she was telling her precious cargo to stay put on the road to Bethlehem.  There must have been a lot running through her mind as she rode on the back of that donkey.  And considering the much longed for but unexpected manner of that arrival that changed the course of history, matching gift wrap seems a lot less important.

So, instead of worrying about tying all the bows and loose ends, I'm taking the time to enjoy this moment of life.  Right this moment, my one daughter is sleeping.  I'll only have one daughter for a brief moment longer.  Right this moment, my husband is home resting by my side.  Right this moment, I'm feeling little hiccups from this other little one.  Right this moment, life is calm.  I'm content.  I'm happy.  And I feel overwhelmingly blessed and loved.  I feel very festive.

Here are some photos of our merriments:

Aurelia showing off that she's "SO BIG"

Best buddies due two days apart!

Hawkins Family Christmas with the Simlers

Aurelia enjoying some blocks

Thanks Mamaw and Papaw!

So happy about all the red and yellow toys!

The cousins

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, this is a post about sleep

A whole post about sleep?  Seems a bit much, doesn't it?  I mean, every new mom is exhausted.  And so I know that I am preaching to the choir a little.  But I also know that sleep is one of the biggest issues in my life currently.

Here's the thing: I have 15 month old who has yet to sleep through the night.  She's done maybe five nights with a 6-7 hour stretch.  But most nights follow a pattern of going to sleep at 7:00-7:30, waking up at 10:00, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and up for the day at 7:00 AM.  Bad nights follow a 1-2 hour sleep cycle pattern, good nights are 3-4.  On a good night, Joey or I only have to get out of bed once to go rock, comfort, feed, change, pace, and cry with her.  On a good night, we're woken up those three or four times by a scream and a couple minutes of crying before she conks back out.  So, what I'm saying is that good nights aren't so good.

You can see why #9 on my list was a big deal.  I haven't slept for more than 6 hours uninterrupted in over 15 months.  I had my chance when we went to SLC, but that night had an unfortunate turn of events that I don't want to relive.  I knew that the night after the Pickwick show was my best chance for a full night sleep without a baby monitor and before I get too uncomfortably pregnant.  And I knew that Joey and Zach were content to stay up later than necessary while I hit the hay early.  When I went to bed at 12:30, they were making ravioli.  The last thing I heard before I drifted off was, "These ravioli are like pillows of goodness."  And just like that, I crossed another item off my list.  I got 7 glorious hours of sleep.  It was pretty amazing.  I feel like I can now turn 30 refreshed.  Well, we'll see what baby #2 has to say about that since she's due a week before my birthday.  But at least I got one more full night sleep in before she arrives.  And who knows, maybe there will be more.

I don't want this post to sound like I'm complaining.  I do miss sleep.  But for the most part, I've gotten used to jolting awake in the middle of the night.  I've learned to weigh my sleep options.  I decide if I want to go to be at 8:30 or write, if I want to nap or fold laundry (guess which one usually wins there!), if straightening up the living room will make me feel more rested in the morning than 15 extra minutes of sleep.  I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned that restfulness isn't always about 8 hours of shut eye.  Sometimes it's about cuddling with Aurelia when she's not sleeping.  Sometimes it's about doing things that make me feel fulfilled.  Sometimes it's about leaning on other people.  All the time it's about leaning on the untiring arms of the Lord.  Sometimes it's about praying for a lot of grace.  Sometimes it's about a visit to Cutters Point or Starbucks.  Sometimes it's about stepping back and getting a bigger and better perspective about what I need to make it through the day.  And sometimes it's remembering that this little nugget makes it all worthwhile.

And here are a few more photos from our little trip to Seattle:

Voulas is amazing! Definitely worth a visit.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Dates of Christmas

When Joey and I were dating and first married, I made him an advent calendar each year.  Some years it was a fun treat for each day of December.  One year it was cheap glass bulb ornaments that he could break each morning, filled with candy and love notes.  It was fun little way to show him a glimpse of how much I love him.  However, as life got busier and we moved to places without craft stores (imagine, no Michaels in Kabul), the advent calendar kinda dropped off my radar.  This year, I decided I would revive and remodel the tradition and have made 12 DATES for Christmas.  I thought it would be a fun way to cross #22 off my 30 before 30 list.  Some of the dates are really simple, some are pretty extravagant (like #1 and #2), some are double dates, some include our cute little 3rd wheel, and a few of them I'm not even going on.  I can't go into much more detail because my husband is one of my most faithful blog followers (love you, Lover!), and I don' want to spoil the upcoming surprises.  But our first two dates helped me mark a few more items off the list, so I'll gladly share about them.

The date started the night by dropping Aurelia off at Yaya and Nono's.  She sure does love them, and I sure am thankful for them!  Then we drove up to Seattle.

We ate here in the International District:
Thanks for the recommendation, Zach Cheney.  Samurai Noodle was very tasty.  We got the Tonkatsu and Tampopo.

Then we wondered through Uwajimaya Asian grocer.  Joey and I have traveled a lot and seen a lot of things.  Uwajimaya reminded us that there is still SO MUCH MORE TO SEE!  Here is a look of overwhelmage:

After seeing a thousand different green teas and ramen bowls, we ran down town to pick up this guy:

This photo is outdated and titled:
Conquistador; I've come to conquer your lands.
Yep, date #1 converted into a double date with Team Rhoades.  Zach is one of Joey's closest friends and we love spending time with them.  We met up with Lolo at Big Time Brewery and waited approximately 60 minutes for a cheese pizza that tasted a little like movie popcorn (second dinner).  But I hear the brews were good.

And our next stop was the main event of the first date of Christmas.  We headed to The Neptune for a Pickwick concert.  Are you familiar with Pickwick?  If you're not, you should be.  And if you're not, you probably will be soon.  Although I honestly only know about them because Joey and Zach are friends with the lead guitarist.  My husband keeps me in the know.  Check out these two videos and prepare to wait with the rest of the world for the release of their first studio album:

Pickwick - Blackout (Suzzallo Reading Room) from Tyler Kalberg on Vimeo.

Live From The Basement - Pickwick from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.

Great stuff, right?  It was a very fun show.  And I've decided that concerts are a bit like tattoos or some other addictive habit.  I haven't been to a show in so long, now I want to go to one every weekend.  Maybe this one.  Unfortunately, 9:00 PM in Seattle means overnight babysitting and a very late night for a very pregnant lady.  Oh well, I'll just stick with my ipod for now.

Then we headed back to the Rhoades place where I got 7 hours of sleep for the first time in 15 months. . . but that deserves a post of its own.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Checking stuff off the list

What a busy, busy week!  I can't believe it's already Friday night. . . I actually keep thinking it's Saturday because there is no way we fit so much into five days.  Many, many things to post about.  We've decked our halls.  We've started getting ready for Christmas (almost done with the shopping).  And I'm ready to check several items off the list.  Each of these items deserve a moment in the spotlight, but look forward to hearing about our concert adventure, Joey's date night, sleeping for 6 hours uninterrupted, and AURELIA ARMY CRAWLING!  Like I said, it's been a busy week!

But for now, I have to help Joey get ready for a quick trip to the East Coast and back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Purge

I love a good purge.  When I was a kid, I was big on keeping every little memento, picture, or piece of paper it seemed.  But when grown-up life required many cross country/world moves, I developed a love for downsizing.  I'll look at things and think, "If I were moving to Kabul tomorrow and could only take two suitcases, would I take this with me?  Would I pay to store it?"  Those two questions do wonders for not growing too attached to things and keeping our stuff to a minimum.  Of course, now that we have a house and kid(s), this minimal lifestyle is much harder.  And I do have a soft spot for things attached to memories (i.e. I'm more likely to keep something due to the giver not the gift).  But I love tearing through a box found in some forgotten corner, stored for years, filled with things that I once thought worthy of keeping.  It gives me a great little unedited picture of the person that turned into me.

Last week, Mary sent me home from family dinner with three gigantic boxes tucked away in their attic for the last 9 years.  Two of those boxes had been packed and not revisited since high school.  They were definitely old school. . . we're talking preschool class picture, 3rd grade valentines, middle school yearbook old school.  And there were so, so many random trinkets, bracelets, and various baubles that were worth being lovingly packed away that spark no memory whatsoever today (and if you know me, you know I have a pretty keen memory).  Seriously, why did I keep a stack of arcade tokens in a jewelry box?  In the end, I have one small box staying, one large box Goodwill-ing, and one larger stack of what in the world was I thinking?

So, here are some of my keep or toss items:

Keep: My American Girl Doll, Kjersten.  She'll be passed on to Aurelia in a year or so.

Toss: My binder full of certificates I received throughout elementary, middle school, and high school.  Of course, it was refreshing to know that I received an honorable mention at the Lighthouse Christian School 7th grade Art Fair and that my cabin received the "Fashionably Late" award at 5th grade camp.

Keep: My three charm bracelets.  Yes, three.  Two are blank slates that I'll pass on to our daughters.  The other actually has some charms on it such as a ballet charm and a charm of my patron saint St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless causes.).  I'll always remember how special and fun we thought Mom's charm bracelet was when we were growing up.

Toss: Greeting cards and valentines from elementary school from people I don't know anymore, stored in a folder with a list of things I love written on the front.  This list from 3rd grade includes going to the cabin, getting mail, Topo Gigio (please follow the link, it's worth it), challenges, getting mail, cows, puppies, clear nights, 'writting,' and (like any good Washingtonian) apples.

Keep: My first passport.  A) The picture is awesome.  I had sweet hair.  B) I think it explains my love for travel since it has 9 stamps in it and it expired when I was 14.  Kuddos to my parents for taking us places.  Aurelia's passport has two stamps so far.

Toss: "Class of 2000" paraphernalia and my cap and gown.  Maybe I'll keep the cap and gown for the dress-up box I know is inevitably in my future as the mother of girls.  I'll also be putting my senior banquet dress in there.

Some random things that made me laugh: My parents let me fill out my own K-12 memory book (meaning I filled it out until 7th grade and lost interest).  When I was in 2nd grade, my one like was spinach and dislike, white chocolate.  When I was in 7th grade, I wanted to be an engineer.  Kindergarten Julie's favorite song was "Oh Susanna" and had a pet gerbil named Bill, named after my dad.  As a 4th grader, the most influential person in my life was Jean Kesterson (pictured below on the left with Padraig).

It's also pretty hilarious to read what people wrote in my middle school year books.  One unsigned message said, "I'm sorry I made you throw up."  I don't remember that.  And I have so many "Friends 4-ever".  I was also chided not to do drugs or drink alcohol if I ever had a baby by one signer, sage 6th grade advice.  And my first "boyfriend" told me he hoped our relationship didn't go "kaput" over the summer between 8th and 9th grade (those of you who know Chris Bechtel can giggle about that).

And finally, I made another step towards completing my 30 before 30 list.  What do you think of our new home decorations?  And what should I do with my "1993 Undefeated Champions" soccer trophy?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekend Recap

Busy weekend.

Went here with friends.  Loads of fun stuff that I would love to buy, but I refrained.

And I went to the youth auction benefit at our church.  It was a great opportunity to get dressed up and have fun for a good cause.  I won a dinner for Joey and I (along with 8 others) with Os Guinness this summer.

But the best part of the weekend was this:

Yep, Joey's home after a month in Toronto.  We are two happy ladies.

And we ended the weekend with a quick trip to the Living Nativity here in the harbor.  It was fun, but wow the line was long.  I had no idea that the little town of Bethlehem would be so popular.  Here are the guys and kids after we made it through.

Needless to say we are keeping busy.  Unfortunately not sleeping, Aurelia has decided to switch from the nice 3 hour sleep blocks back to the 1 hour blocks.  Hopefully she'll make it through this phase quickly!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Thrill of Hope!

Welcome December!  It's hard to believe that it's already the most wonderful time of the year.  I love Christmas time.  I love the music, the lights, the traditions, the foods, the parties, the time with family, the cold weather, the stockings hung by the chimney with care. . . I could really go on and on and make quippy song quote after song quote.  But I'm sure most of you are already busily making merry yourselves, rocking around the Christmas tree as you go throughout your days.

Ok, you all know that I love tradition and history.  I was always the kid that wanted to know the story behind the story.  I was the kid that wanted to know why we put up the tree, why we eat candy canes, what in the world are the 12 days of Christmas and why would anyone give their true love four calling birds?  You're probably thinking, "Your poor parents."  I'm pretty sure they would have utilized google a lot if it had been around during my formative years.  My curiosity is why I eventually went on to study history in college.  Yep, I chose my college major because I like research.  It's a huge part of my make up.  So Christmas is really my cup of tea.  There are a lot of fun, poignant, symbolic, and historic traditions wrapped up into these days of December.  Let's start with Advent.

The first of December marks the beginning of Advent and the start of the liturgical year for the church (technically it began last Sunday).  Advent celebrates the wait leading up to the birth of Christ.  I think it's a beautiful sentiment that the year begins with waiting in eager anticipation rather than the actual event.  As children (and adults) count down the days until Christmas, we remember with joy the wait for the long expected Savior.

In our church (and many others), we light a candle each Sunday of Advent.  This last Sunday, we lit the candle of Hope.  I've thought a lot about hope this week.  The things I hope for mainly cover family, future unknowns, and tied into those two are Aurelia.  I feel like we have so many unknowns with her future.  And I feel like her health is the major deciding factor in where we are and what we're doing.  There are small moments of worry, but I try not to go down that route.  It's a lot to put on the shoulders of a 15 month old.  So, instead I hope.  I hope for incredible things (like a cure for hydrocephalus), and everyday things (like a restful night).  I hope for progress  (like crawling), and I hope for answers (like why she can't seem to gain weight).  But more than anything, I hope that she will experience and know the love of the little baby, born in a manger, sent to redeem humanity.  And hoping for that gives any of my weary worries peace.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!