Thursday, April 26, 2012

Evie is Walking!

Evie just took her very first unassisted steps! And, happily enough, Todd and I were both home to witness it; she's been so close for weeks and I've been terrified that I'd be at work and miss the whole thing. In fact, every time I was home, I'd taken to putting her a few feet in front of me and coaxing her towards me, hoping that I could spur her into taking her first steps. It never worked until tonight; she'd always plop down and crawl to me instead. Tonight, though, I'd just gotten home (hence my lovely getup) and shown Todd a couple of pictures I'd taken this afternoon of the car parked next to me. (Todd hates Smart cars. He thinks they're stupid looking, so I thought he'd get a kick out of this one. Check out the eyelashes on the headlights!)
I hadn't been home very long when a thunderstorm kicked up outside. It wasn't bothering us too much (Evie didn't even notice the flashes of lightning or crashes of thunder) until the wind suddenly blew the front door open. I closed it tight and then sat down on the floor so I could pick up Evie's things that she'd scattered all over the living room. She'd crawled over to see what I was doing, so I sort of halfheartedly placed her on her feet and asked her to "Come to Mommy!" I wasn't actually expecting anything to happen, so I was thrilled when she actually shuffled forward a few steps! Todd had looked up as I stood her up, so he saw the whole thing too. I excitedly asked him if this counted as her walking so I could put the date into her baby book. He looked dubious, so I tried it again. And it worked! What's more, since I had just shown Todd those pictures from this afternoon, the camera was sitting right at his elbow and, miracle of miracles, it had fresh batteries and enough memory to capture the entire blessed event! We never have the camera on hand when Evie does something special for the first time! So I immediately called my mom, even though it was late, to tell her the happy news. And now, I proudly present Evie's first solo baby steps!
(Ignore me freaking out in the background. I've been waiting for this for what feels like ages, and I was a little beside myself that I actually got to witness it!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baby Bonks

My poor baby has a huge knot on her head!
Evie has her Daddy's hair pattern, which makes it really hard to do anything cute with it. Finally, this afternoon, I was able to pull some of her hair up into a little ponytail. I was admiring her and she was showing off her cute little ponytail when she suddenly lost her balance and bonked her head on a table chair leg. Tears immediately commenced. I thought she'd hit her nose, so once my sobbing baby had calmed down enough to let me take a look at her, I thought she was fine. Until I noticed the massive horn sticking out of her forehead and casting a shadow over the rest of her face! I went to get a bag of frozen corn, but by then she'd recovered enough that she was more interested in playing with the corn than holding it to her head. All of this took place in the space of about two minutes. I'm still a little worried about brain damage, though, because once she was allowed to go play again, she immediately went for the little plush Elmo she got for her birthday that she has never shown any interest in before, and started excitedly showing him to me while I looked on in dismay! To distract her from the evil Elmo, I took some pictures of the gigantic goose-egg. 
My cutie-pie with her livid bruise.
By now, she'd pretty much forgotten about her injury.
She's getting better at posing when I ask her to.
In this one, you can see both the cute ponytail and the dark shadow cast by her goose-egg.
Light vs. shadow wage war across her forehead.
She decided to come see what I was doing with the camera.
Then, to help further cheer her up, we went outside to wait for Daddy to come home from work. Evie really enjoys picking the bright yellow dandelions in the front yard, but she didn't quite know what to make of the fluffy white versions.
A couple of weeks ago, Todd taught her to blow on hot food before taking a bite. A few days later, I was giving her some Cheerios to snack on, and she blew on one before popping it into her mouth! It was one of the cutest little moments I've ever seen! I've also been trying to teach her how to blow kisses, but she doesn't quite have the hang of it yet. When we went outside, I tried showing her how to blow on the white dandelion fluffs and make them fly away. She really tried, but had more success just pinching them off with her little fingers. Todd came home while we were blowing the fluffs, and he carried her into the house, sympathizing with her owie. Of course, by now I don't think she even knew what he was talking about! Hopefully it'll look much better by tomorrow.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Little Bookworm

Evie is a very verbal little person. She babbles all the time, and I've actually gotten several comments from doctors and other moms about how advanced her verbal skills are. All I can do is smile and agree, but I'm not surprised; she's my daughter after all, and I like to talk. I like to read, too, and I'm very happy to announce that it seems Evie has inherited that love. There was never any real doubt in my mind that she would love books, especially given who her Mommy and Daddy are, but it's still nice to have proof. That little girl loves stories. She has a bookshelf in her room where all of her books and some of her toys are kept, and she loves that thing. When it gets really quiet and I start thinking that she's getting into something she shouldn't, I often find her sitting on the floor in front of her bookshelf, reading a story to herself. I love it! And she has started bringing me specific stories to read to her. She'll come up to me, book in hand, and want to sit up on my lap. While I'm reading the story, she likes to turn the pages for me, and after I'm done, she takes the book from me and reads the story to me. Each page always goes something like this, "BA-ba-BA-ba-ba," and it tickles me that she's learning to imitate the cadence of sounds, even if she doesn't use the actual words quite yet. Part of her nighttime routine, once she's in her jams, is to pick out a book for Daddy to read to her. When they're done with their story, he hands Evie to me and I sing a song or two and then put her into her bed. While she still often protests the idea of being in bed instead of playing, she's usually much calmer if she's had her bedtime story. Then, if we're quiet, we can hear her telling herself and her stuffed animals her own little girl stories. Her little babbles have real inflections and emphases, and you can almost see the stories she's weaving. I don't know if her advanced verbal skills led to her love of books, or if her love of books is contributing to her verbal skills. Probably both. But I'm so proud of my smart little bookworm, and I'm thrilled that I get to be her Mommy!

Finding Features

Evie has discovered her face. For a couple of months now, she's known where her eyes, ears, nose, lips, teeth, hair, belly (button), fingers, and toes are, and has been able to point to any of them when asked. And she knows where all of those body parts are on other people and on her stuffed animals. She's able to help us dress her by moving her arms and legs into the appropriate holes when asked, and she likes to wiggle her toes at us. She loves playing the Finding game where we ask her "Where are Evie's eyes?" "Where's Daddy's nose?" "Where are Mommy's ears?" "Where's the giraffe's tail?" etc. So far her favorite features to find are noses and belly buttons. All of her toys have a nose, and so I think it's the easiest for her to find. Besides, we make a silly "Beep, beep, beep" noise anytime she pokes one of our noses, so I think that helps make it fun for her. When she was learning about belly buttons, I would tickle hers and make her laugh, so now she thinks it's lots of fun to tickle our belly buttons too, but she has to pull up our shirts and undershirts to find them. It doesn't help that her belly is round enough that she can't really see her own belly button. When I ask "Where's Evie's belly button?" she pokes the top of her belly instead of her actual belly button, but she still gets credit for knowing that one. Of course, it's getting harder and harder for her to find my belly button, too, since my belly's getting rounder and my belly button isn't an "innie" anymore--it's getting flat instead. I think that on some level, Evie understands about my belly and knows that there's a baby in there, even if only as an abstract concept. If I ask her "Where's the baby?" she'll tap on my belly--after pulling up my shirt and undershirt, of course. One morning I asked her "Will you give the baby a kiss?" and she gave me the sweetest little kiss on my belly. Then that kiss quickly turned into her first ever zurbit as she discovered how fun it is to blow raspberries against other people's bellies. I'm not sure if that was a display of sibling rivalry, or Evie finally paying Mommy back for the many zurbits I've done on her belly, but either way I was laughing hard enough make her lose contact with my skin. Such a funny little girl! Now that she has most of her individual features down, I've started trying to teach her to find her face as a whole. She thinks it's great fun when I cover her entire face with one of my hands and exclaim "Face!" but her own hands are so little that she only covers her mouth and nose when she tries it. Oh well, I think that one counts as well. Todd's been teaching her to find her chin, but she's still shaky on that one. He's planning on moving on to her knees next, while my next move is her booty. I figure, I say it often enough ("You stink. Let's go change your gross booty into a clean one!" or "Are you dancing? That's right; shake that little booty!") that it won't take her long to catch on. In the meantime, I cover that cute little face with lots of kisses and praise her when she finds the right feature the first time we ask, which happens most of the time. Mommy loves that smart little girl!

Dancing Queen

My baby loves to boogie! In this post, I related how Evie was fond of dancing to music while still in my belly. Well, now that she's out and has found her balance for the most part, she's also definitely found her rhythm! It doesn't really matter what kind of music is playing; she can rock out to Bon Jovi, or sway along with Enya. It's the cutest thing to be watching TV or something, and suddenly see her start bobbing along to the music. If she's kneeling on the ground, she'll bob her little bottom up and down. If she's standing and holding on to something, she'll wiggle that little bottom back and forth. And her sense of rhythm is actually pretty good, too! If she looks up and sees me watching her while she dances, she gets a huge grin on her face, and if I bob my head along with hers, that grin only gets bigger. And she loves dancing along with us. If I swing her up into my arms and start twirling around to a Journey song, she thinks it's the most fun ever and just laughs and laughs. She's also started singing herself to sleep, and her little songs are so precious! That little girl has music in her blood, and I know that Todd is thrilled that his baby loves music as much as she does. She loves listening to him practice his trombone, and she'll stop playing with her toys so she can go stand against his legs and gaze up at him while he plays. He's even started giving her one of his mouthpieces and showing her how to buzz into it. She obviously has no clue what she's doing, and she quickly gets self-conscious and shy, but those are adorable Daddy/daughter moments and I love that I get to witness them. Sometimes, she'll sort of buzz through her lips along with whatever he's playing, and even though the notes aren't right, it's cute to watch. One time, I even caught a video of it, but of course it was one of those where the sound wasn't working right. Grrr. And I was especially grumpy that it didn't work out because she actually had the mouthpiece in her hand! But here it is anyway so you can get a sense of what she does with her lips. You'll just have to imagine her sweet little voice, though.

Little Sweetheart

Evie is becoming quite the affectionate little sweetheart of late. For many months, she's understood that her Mommy loves her. Babies are supposed to have trouble understanding pronouns, so one day I was trying to help her understand exactly how I felt about her by saying "Mommy loves Evie" and patting each of our chests in turn. She grasped the concept immediately, and ever since, she'll come up to me, pat my chest over and over, and smile while I tell her "Mommy loves Evie!" Lately, very rarely, she'll pat her own chest first and then mine, and I like to think that she's telling me that Evie loves Mommy. At about the same time, she started spontaneously giving kisses. Before, she always needed prompting to give someone a kiss, and was usually very bashful about it. Except with Todd. Evie loves her Daddy, and enjoys giving him kisses. Maybe that's because she sees how much Mommy enjoys kissing Daddy. We've never been shy about kissing in front of her, and, even when she was only a couple of months old, she's always gotten a huge goofy grin on her face every time she's caught us at it. I have to admit, it warms my heart to know that my daughter knows true love when she sees it, and I hope she finds an eternal sweetie of her own when she grows up. Well, on General Conference weekend, Todd and I were sharing the large red chair in the living room during the Sunday afternoon session and Evie asked to be let up with us, so I pulled her up and settled her between us. Suddenly, with no prompting whatsoever, she kissed my knee and then Todd's shoulder. Then she snuggled against his arm with a smile. Ever since then, she bestows sweet little kisses all the time. She picks up whatever stuffed animal she's currently playing with, kisses its nose, and rocks back and forth with it snuggled to her chest. When I ask her if she's snuggling her bear (or lion, or giraffe, etc), she just smiles and gives the animal another kiss. Sometimes she even snuggles her critters into the ground and lies on top of them with her head buried in their soft bellies, rising periodically to kiss their noses some more. It's even become part of her bathtime routine. Once she's clean and is done playing and splashing with her duckies, I squeeze the water out of each one, she kisses it on the beak, and I put it away before moving on to the next. Evie's much less shy about giving me kisses now, but her favorite person to kiss is still her Daddy. I'm actually really glad that she has her own room now so that I can kiss her Daddy after her bedtime without hearing a small giggle and looking up to see her peering over the edge of her bed with a knowing and mischievous grin plastered across her little face. I've started teaching her how to blow kisses, and she's made excellent progress, but it's still hard for her. She gets it right about 60% of the time, and that's after lots of prompting and demonstration. But she really is getting better; she doesn't bop herself in the nose nearly as often anymore! I think she prefers real kisses, though, and who can blame her?

Big Girl

I've been meaning to post this for a couple of months, but I figure that now that Evie is a year old, it's past time for me to make a list of all the "big-girl" things she's doing now. However, there's so much that she's doing now, that I've decided it's going to be easier to break this post down into several other, more focused, ones. This post is just a list of a few of Evie's specific accomplishments that don't really fit into any of the other posts, which means it'll probably be the messiest of them all. Sorry in advance!
Ever since our flight back from Idaho Falls in January, Evie has been saying "Ma-ma" if I prompt her, and she knows that that word means me! Only while she was in the hospital did she start saying "Da-da" and associating that word with Todd. Before that "Dadada" meant "Whatever thing I'm currently looking at." And it still does, for the most part. On the rare occasion that she's actually talking about Todd, though, her "Da-da" is slower and much more deliberate.
I taught Evie how to clap back around Christmas time, and now anytime anyone says "Yay, Evie!" she smiles and claps her hands together. Along a similar line, Todd taught her how to give high-fives, so if you hold your hand out and say "Give me five!" or "High-five!" she smiles and pauses for a moment before whacking your hand several times in a row.
Evie crawls everywhere now! And she's super fast too; it's almost a challenge keeping up with her now! She's become mistress of the stairs, and can climb them quite quickly. She's recently learned how to go down one step at a time, by practicing on the sidewalk steps outside. We haven't tried it on real stairs yet, though. If she's on something tall, like our bed or the couch, she's learned to slide down on her belly feet-first. She likes to pull herself up using pretty much any piece of furniture, and just stand there being big. Her balance while standing on our bed is actually quite remarkable; she wobbles a little, but doesn't fall over nearly as often as she used to. She's also recently developed an obsession with light switches. She's perfectly content to perch in someone's arms and turn the lights on and off. On and off.
Evie likes being a big girl. She likes eating whatever we're eating, especially if she can feed herself. She doesn't really grasp the concept of how spoons work, but if we stab something with a fork, she can usually get it into her mouth. It would help if we got her some little forks because the ones we use are just too tall for her little hands. She also likes to brush her own hair and teeth. She understands quite a bit of what we tell her, and I sometimes have to be careful of what I say around her. She can follow simple commands like "Eat a bite of your banana, please," or "Let me see your face [so I can clean it]," or "Go snuggle your bear!" She understands, but likes to ignore, the word "No!" If I accompany it with a shake of my head, she sometimes just smiles at me and shakes her own head in response before turning back to the forbidden activity. She also understands the phrase "Come here!" but she sometimes ignores that one, too, especially if she thinks that what she's currently doing is more interesting than Mommy or Daddy.
Many months ago, she suddenly starting doing this cute little thing where she scrunches her eyes shut for a quick moment. I'm not sure if she's trying to wink, or if she's just being flirty, but it's absolutely adorable!

Her Daddy also taught her how to make noises with her lips, and she loves doing it! Unfortunately, that last video and this next one were taken in February, right before her hospital visit, and you can hear how rough her breathing was and just how sick our sweet little girl was feeling. And yet, through it all, she remained such a bright little spirit, silly and happy despite coughing and wheezing.
These are just a few of the many things our precious Evie has learned how to do in recent months. More organized posts will follow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Picky Eater

My baby has been abducted by aliens and is now a pod-person. That is the only plausible explanation I can come up with for why she's suddenly become so picky about what she eats. This child used to scarf down anything she could, including, but not limited to, the following: cake, fruits, vegetables, dirt, puffs, bread, milk, dust bunnies, yogurt, cheese, pasta, etc. She would mooch bites of whatever I was eating, especially breakfast foods, even if the texture or flavor took her by surprise. I think it made her feel like a big girl to eat Mommy's food. One morning, I made myself oatmeal for breakfast. I like my hot cereal sweet, so I always put in lots of brown sugar. Evie came over and started begging for a bite. I gave her one, and watched her eyes widen and a huge smile encompass her face. She had several more bites, and was wired for the rest of the day. I also like to put granola into my yogurt cups to add a little more substance, flavor, and nutrition to my breakfast. Every morning, Evie would watch me stir in my granola and start eating, then she would start whining that she wasn't getting any. I'd give her a spoonful, and watch as she carefully sucked all the yogurt off of the granola, and then swirled the granola around her mouth with her tongue, not sure what to do with it until it finally dissolved enough for her to swallow. Then she'd demand more. Every morning. I was a little surprised that she couldn't remember from day to day that the texture was weird to her. She would also whine if she didn't get any of my bagel either, so I started toasting two bagels in the morning. I'd eat three halves and tear the last half into little bites in a bowl for her. She was thrilled! The last example was when I made chicken enchiladas for dinner one night. Todd LOVES chicken enchiladas; they're his favorite dinner! I had Evie in her booster seat so she could watch as I measured, stirred and cooked. I gave her tastes of things as I put them into the bowl so she could experience what was going on. I had Todd grating cheese for me, and he gave her little bites. She loved it! When dinner was ready, Todd proved his love for his daughter by actually giving her bites of his enchiladas. She was so proud of herself, sitting at the table and eating "big-girl food" with the rest of us. She would over-exaggerate her chewing so we could be sure to see it, and after she swallowed, she'd beam at us until we gave her another bite. That was the last night before the aliens came. The next day, remembering her fondness for those cheese bites, I cut some cheese into little cubes and put them into a ziploc bag for part of her lunch. Then I dropped her off at my brother-in-law's house while I went to work. According to John, she didn't even touch the cheese bites. We wrestled with her for the next two days, trying to get her to eat cheese cubes, but she refused every time, eventually not even tasting them, just throwing them straight onto the floor. The next week, I packed a baggie of her bagel bites into the diaper bag for her lunch. She ate them all, plus the slice of bread I'd packed for her, but the next day, she didn't touch the bagel bites. The day after that was the day I went to the doctor for my appointment. That morning, I made a double batch of oatmeal so I could share with Evie. I made sure to not put as much sugar into her bowl as mine, but hers still wasn't bland and gross! Halfway through breakfast, she started spitting out the oatmeal I was spooning into her mouth. Even showing her that I was eating the exact same thing she was didn't budge her. I fought with her for probably 20 minutes before giving up and eating while ignoring her whining that I wasn't giving her any bites of my food. During my appointment, Evie was a little hungry (shocker, I know), so I pulled out that same bag of bagel bites to keep her occupied while I talked with the doctor. After eating a handful of bites, she started throwing them onto the floor. She refused to finish the rest of the bag. I cried that day because we had very little food in the house, I was hungry, and my ungrateful baby wouldn't even eat the little food that I could give her. For breakfast on the first of this month, I made sausages and waffles for breakfast, and made some over-easy eggs for Todd and scrambled ones for Evie (I'm not much of an egg person anymore). I made sure that the sausage bites and egg bites were small enough for her to pick up and feed herself without choking. Only a few minutes into eating breakfast, Evie suddenly swept her entire plate onto the floor. Already emotionally overwrought, I cried again while Todd cleaned up her mess and put her to bed. Another time, Todd tried giving her some apple slices for lunch. She seemed enthusiastic, but then she started sucking all of the juice out of each apple slice, and leaving the shrunken apple behind. This past week, we bought some "Baby Cutie" Clementine oranges to give her because she's old enough to have citrus now, and the slices are the perfect size for her to feed herself. Todd gave her some slices the day we bought them, and she gobbled them up. The next day, I peeled an orange for her and gave her the slices. She ate about half of the orange, then she started sucking all the juice out of the slices and spitting them on the floor. When I reprimanded her, she started sucking the juice out of each slice, spitting the remainder on the floor, then carefully picking it back up and very politely handing it up to me. I had to struggle really hard not to laugh. When Todd got home that night, I told him what "his" daughter had done that day. He asked why that made her "his" daughter, and I told him, "No child of mine would ever do something as silly as leave perfectly good orange slices on the floor." He said that his wouldn't either, and I said, "I know, but I have to blame one of us, and I obviously can't blame myself!" Happily, Evie still loves her bananas. Every morning, I peel a banana for her, break it in half and give her both halves so she can hold one in each hand. The morning after the orange episode, I gave her the banana as usual, and then turned away to pour her a sippy cup of milk. When I turned back around, I saw a calculating look on Evie's face as she slowly chewed her banana. I could tell that she was trying to find a way to suck the flavor out of the banana and spit out the rest. Fortunately for me, bananas don't really HAVE juice that she can just suck out, so HA HA HA! I've finally won a battle over food: the Banana Battle! Even last night, we had issues. Todd made red beans and rice for dinner with a side of green beans. Evie eagerly stuffed her mouth full of green beans and then chewed on them for ages. Finally, instead of swallowing, she spit the drained and empty beans onto her overalls, and then picked them up and--yep, you guessed it--let them fall onto the floor. We both very sternly told her that no, that was not acceptable, and she looked at us with her huge innocent eyes, and then shoveled more beans into her mouth. When the second batch of beans joined the first on the floor, I turned to Todd, sighed, and said, "Well, I guess we should at least be grateful that she seems to like the taste of the green beans, right?" He growled something in response and kept glaring at her. I started feeding her forkfuls of rice, which she ate readily enough. But when she started screaming at me, Todd picked her up and put her to bed.
See, that's the thing. It's not like we just let her get away with random crap because we're afraid of disciplining our daughter. We have certain rules about eating that she knows she's supposed to follow: NO throwing food on the floor, NO screaming at us because she wants more food now and we're not moving quickly enough for her, NO clawing our arms while we're taking a quick bite in between feeding her so that she can snag our food. If she wants more food, she needs to ask for it in a nice way and then--surprise, surprise--she needs to eat it! And if she breaks the rules, she knows what her punishment will be: the first time, she gets a verbal warning to remind her that she's doing something she's not supposed to; the second time, she gets pulled away a few feet from the table until she's ready to be nice again; the third time, she gets put to bed so we can finish our meal in peace. Then, when we're done, she gets to come back out so we can see if she's "repented" and is ready to eat. If so, she can finish her food; if not, we decide that dinner is over and we put her on the floor to play while we throw away whatever she didn't finish. I think we're entirely reasonable about this, and our system seems to work okay so far, I just wish we didn't have to have this system in place at all. I want my sweet little garbage-gut back! (On the plus side, though, she doesn't eat dust bunnies off the floor anymore!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Small Miracle

Today, we finally got the bill from Evie's hospital stay in February. We've been waiting to hear if we were going to qualify for a complete discount because we were uninsured at the time, but I haven't been too optimistic. The most I've been hoping for is 20% off of the original bill. When I opened the bill today, I was kind of confused; I wasn't sure if the total was the entire amount we had to pay or if it was just one payment in a series of several to come. When Todd came home from work, I quietly handed the envelope to him and asked him to interpret the statement for me. It turns out that, not only did the hospital grant us a discount, they granted us a 90% discount! We only have to pay 10% of the total bill, an amount which we actually have saved up in our emergency fund! We can actually pay all of Evie's medical bills without adding another hill to our mountain of debt! I burst into happy tears because of this wonderful little miracle for our family, and I've been crying off and on ever since. It feels so good to have this huge weight lifted off of my chest, and I know that this is an answer to many prayers offered by us and on our behalf. In fact, I gave my mom a call just after we learned the good news, sobbing the whole time, and thanked her for praying for our family. I know that God knows our individual needs, and I'm so grateful for this small miracle in my life!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Evie's Second Easter

On a lighter note, I would like to post a few pictures from our Easter evening. A year ago, when Evie was just a couple of weeks old, we celebrated her first Easter. We were invited up to Salt Lake City to enjoy dinner with Todd's aunt and uncle. And to show off our new baby, of course! She wore a very frilly blue dress, and was not in the best of moods that night.
Yesterday morning, we went to our old ward for sacrament meeting because John and Margot were both in the choir, so we went to support them and keep an eye on their kids. After sacrament meeting, we left because we had so much else to do that day. Evie wore a pretty pink dress, but was not in a good mood because she was tired and ready for her nap.
Wow! What a difference one year makes, right? Once these pictures had been snapped, we changed Evie into more comfy clothes and let her take a nap while we folded laundry and unpacked some more (we're still not completely unpacked and it's driving us crazy!). When Evie woke up, we went to Wal-Mart to get some desperately needed groceries. Apparently, by early afternoon, the holiday is over, because they were taking down all of the Easter stuff so they could put up the Mother's Day stuff. We scored a package of 42 pastel eggs for just under 2 bucks! For the same price, we could have gotten 12 iridescent eggs or 12 swirled eggs, so we felt that we chose wisely. On our journey through Wal-Mart, Todd picked up a package of bunny Peeps for me (I'm the only one in my family who loves Peeps. Especially when they're stale!), but I couldn't find any Cadbury mini-eggs (another Easter addiction of mine). Grrr. Fortunately, our local grocery store, King Soopers, saved the day, and even offered a coupon for them! While at the grocery store, Todd got me a little pot of pansies and a ceramic pot. We also discovered why our little girl was being such a grouch all day: she's teething again! She's got her molars poking through on her lower right side! Anyway, we came home and started dinner: homemade burgers, fries, and shakes while the Munchkin took her second nap. Then we started in on the Easter festivities.
When I was growing up, we got new dresses every Easter, we decorated eggs, and we got a new stuffed bunny in our basket every year. Evie's Easter was a lot less work and money. Todd and I simply poured little goldfish crackers (actually, the cheaper "Whales" version), banana puffs, and strawberry-apple puffs into 12 of the new eggs and "hid" them around the living room and dining room for Evie to find when she woke up. Our hiding spots were fairly easy because, heck, Evie's only a year old and it was her first Easter egg hunt. I got several videos of the hunt itself, but I'm only posting two because these were the cutest.
Evie did eventually find all 12 eggs, and then we put the basket down in front of her so she could shake them to her heart's content. She would occasionally come over to me and ask me to open one for her so she could eat the goodies inside, then she would sit and munch on her treats until the egg was empty and she wanted another one opened. Meanwhile, I didn't want to wait for my Peeps to get stale, so I ate them all in one sitting. Not a wise choice, but hey! I'm pregnant. Wisdom sometimes has nothing to do with my food choices!
I think that, even though Easter was a lot less traditional than I'd originally hoped, Evie had fun finding her eggs. Next year, I hope to be able to teach her a little about the real Easter holiday and why it is so important, but I think that this year still counts as a success. Happy Easter, my sweet baby! And Happy Easter to all of you out there as well!

Laying up Treasures

Matthew 6:19-21
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The message behind these words has been on constant repeat in my head for the last week. Todd and I are not rich; in fact, we're still struggling to deal with our current situation. We live in his parents' basement, our car is currently non-functioning, and we have a mountain of debts looming over us: credit cards, student loans, and medical bills. At times it's tempting to slip into the comforting oblivion of despair and mourn our poverty. Yes, it would be nice to have an earthly treasure trove with which to make our dreams a reality. I would love to have a house of our own with a spacious kitchen where I can store all of our appliances and dishes, a beautiful bedroom with an adjoining bathroom for Todd and me, a couple of bedrooms for the kids, bright windows to let in lots of fresh air and sunshine, a living room large enough to entertain family and friends, and a backyard where the girls could play safely and where I could grow a few plants: raspberries, lilacs, strawberries, tomatoes, and lilies. I would love to be able to stay at home with my children and make cookies, bread, clothes, baby food, music, art, stories, snowmen, etc. I would like to have a car made in the current decade so that I could be sure of it starting reliably and needing relatively few repairs. I would like to get Todd's motorcycle working again because I know he misses it. We're grateful for what we've been given, but I would love to be able to buy my girls new car seats, high chairs, cribs/beds, swings, toys, and clothes instead of accepting hand-me-downs and cast-offs. I want our family to be healthy, happy, and independent. I don't want wealth (well, not too much, anyway!), but I crave security and comfort. It doesn't seem like such an impossible dream, but sometimes it seems wildly beyond our reach. 
Then, I think of these scriptures, and peace enters my soul just a little. Sure, we're not wealthy in the eyes of the world. We're barely scraping by. But we are rich. I have treasures. One of them is named Evangeline, the other is named Elizabeth. They are both so precious to me. Evie has a sparkle in her eyes that outshines any diamonds, her hair is softer than any silk, her skin is smoother than any velvet, and her laugh is sweeter than any music. She embodies sunshine, and I love holding her in my arms--my own little piece of heaven. Whenever we're apart for too long, I become a dragon: uneasy and on edge until my treasure is within my sight again. My greatest fear is somehow losing her. I haven't met Elizabeth yet, but I already feel the same way about her. Feeling her kick and move brings me peace, and I start to worry just a little when I haven't felt her in a while. Fortunately, she is lively and strong, and kicks often so my anxiety is largely at rest. I know it will rage forth, however, once she is born and away from my protective gaze, just as it does with her big sister. I would sell all that I have and suffer dreadful agonies if it meant retaining the privilege of calling myself mother to those precious little girls. I love them more than words can describe. 
And I love their Daddy. He is my other treasure, my soul-mate. He is such a good man: hardworking, intelligent, loving, caring, funny, and worthy. I love being his wife, and I am eternally grateful that he asked me to marry him forever and gave me a beautiful ring to seal the bargain (yes, I do have one earthly treasure that is more precious to me than all but my heavenly treasures!). I'm thankful that, because of the covenants we made to each other and to God while kneeling across a temple altar from one another on a beautiful July day three years ago, we can have our family be together for all eternity. That together we can "lay up" our treasures in heaven where they can never be lost. My inner dragon is calmed by the thought that, even if I lose my children here on earth, I am still sealed to them forever and can hold them again. Calmed only slightly, but enough. This week, I've been comforted by that assurance. No, I don't have lots of money, but I have something even better: I have a family.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Birthday Zoo Trip

On Evie's actual birthday, she and I took a special trip to the zoo while Todd was at work. The day started with birthday cake and milk for breakfast. Then Evie had another bath with her duckies, and we hurried to get out the door and to the zoo. The journey to the zoo ended well, although there was initially some confusion on how to get there since Denver streets still don't make complete sense to me. When we finally got there, we headed straight for the lion exhibit, which is right in front of the doors. There were two "daddy lions;" one was lying down while the other stalked around in the shadow of the rocks. Evie couldn't really see either of them very well because of how they blended in to their surroundings, but she was very excited to see the giant lion poster in front of the glass! We moved on to the Feline House so we could look at the other giant cats. All that I could see, though, was a leopard lying in the shade, and two of the tigers lounging way at the other end of their enclosure.

I don't know if they were the parents or two of the cubs, and I don't know where the other four tigers were, but it didn't really matter because Evie couldn't quite see them anyway. She really tried hard though; even squinting her eyes and peering over at where I was pointing. I think she was a little disappointed that she couldn't see what I was telling her about.

Next, we hurried over to the giraffes, and for the very first time, Evie saw them! In fact, she was quite excited and kept pointing at them and yelling loudly so that she could be sure that I'd noticed her new discovery.
I'm into the third trimester of this pregnancy now, so I can't walk for as long or as far as usual, especially without Todd there to help me by pushing the stroller or carrying Evie up to the glass of different exhibits. However, I wanted Evie to have a good experience during our zoo trip, so I hurried back the way we'd come so we could hopefully catch a glimpse of the elephants and check in on the monkeys and little shrews that had so captivated Evie during our last trip. On our way past the lions, we saw that the first "daddy lion" was still sitting in his same spot, but the second one was out in the sunshine, pacing in a big circle. Evie was thrilled! She finally got the chance to see her favorite animals in person, and her glee was so exciting to see. I made sure to get a video of her exuberance with the last of my camera's available memory:
After the lions, we walked past the cheetah and the kangaroos. The cheetah never moved, but Evie very enthusiastically pointed out to me the rocks and tree-trunks in the exhibit. In front of the kangaroos, I was very surprised and impressed, because they were both lying on their backs and I figured Evie wouldn't be able to see them, but she pointed right at both of them over and over again to show me the new critters she'd found.
We hurried to the elephant exhibit, but they've finally been moved to their new huge home, along with all of the other pachyderms, apparently, and are getting acclimated to their new surroundings so that the general populace can see them on June 1st. I was a little sad we couldn't see the elephants, but I'm excited to go see the huge new exhibit in June; it looks like it will be a third of the total size of the zoo!
Moving right along, we went to see the monkeys. Evie still couldn't make out some of the monkeys that were sleeping on tree branches, but she was a lot more aware than last time, and even pointed one out to me that I hadn't noticed!
One of the monkeys shared a cage with the giant anteater. The monkey slept the whole time, but the giant anteater kept marching around the perimeter of the cage as if he was a sentry. Evie kept looking for the monkey up in the tree until the anteater passed right in front of us so close that we could have touched it if the glass hadn't been in the way. He startled her, and her eyes started following him while he paced around his circuit. I was a little disappointed with the shrews this time. I remembered there being lots of them scurrying around the floors of the lemur exhibits last time, and this time I only saw a couple. Also, the golden lion tamarins that were so energetic last time were all sleeping on their tree branches. Apparently it was naptime for the monkeys! At least Evie noticed them this time, but it took her a lot longer to see the shrews because she kept looking up instead of down. Just like with the anteater, it took one of them coming right up to the glass to get her startled attention.
Next we moved to the great apes and saw the triangular exhibit that housed the family of orangutans. The "mommy monkey" was taking a nap in the far corner, and the baby was in the corner adjacent to us and was busy playing with her straw bed. The giant log playground in the middle made it hard for Evie to see her, though. The "daddy monkey" was sitting directly in front of the window next to us and was busy picking his nose. Apparently this was of no interest to Evie, because her gaze moved right past him in an effort to find something more interesting. Then, he suddenly turned his head towards us, cupped his hands over the tops of his eyes to shut out glare, and stared through the glass directly at the oblivious Evie. I'm not going to lie, that look was a little bit creepy. So...inhuman. I know, that's stupid since he obviously isn't human. But it still concerned me a little. I tried to make the best of it, though. "Look, Evie!" I said, "The daddy monkey is trying to wish you a Happy Birthday!" "Or he's plotting a way to eat you, one of the two" was the thought that I didn't vocalize. She still didn't deign to acknowledge his presence and we were getting a crowd around the glass anyway, so I picked her up and carried her over to the gorillas, who were nice and boring. About this point, I could tell that the munchkin was getting a little hungry and tired, and I was too, so we left the primates and found a nice bench to sit on. Evie had a lunch made up of one of the last of her jarred purees, and a sippy cup full of whole milk. I just sat and rested my hips. Then, we walked through the gift shop on our way out, with Evie pointing out all of the interesting things that she saw and me gaping at the exorbitant prices of everything.

Although it was short, the trip to the zoo was a success! So many of the animals seemed to go out of their way to make the birthday trip pleasant for Evie and I was so proud of my big one-year-old girl!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fun Family Pictures

The day after Evie's party, we went to get some professional pictures taken of our family in its current arrangement. The last professional pictures we took of our family were our wedding photos, so we thought that before my belly got too much bigger, we should get some shots of just Mommy, Daddy, and Evie. I dressed us all in shades of purple so we would lend a sense of cohesiveness to our family pictures, and I even cut my hair the week before so I wouldn't detract from the cuteness of my family by having shaggy and shapeless hair. We originally planned on picking out one pose for $9.95, but Evie was so happy and cooperative, and there were so many cute poses to choose from, that we ended up getting the entire CD. The following are just a few of our favorite poses because they're especially cute or fun:
This is our "favorite" pose, and we got the most printed sheets of this one to share with friends and family.
Evie with her Daddy.
Evie with her Mommy.
I wonder what was going on in her mind at this moment.
A second later, she'd bopped me in the face in an effort to get us off of her.
We were taking perfectly professional pictures when Evie suddenly collapsed back onto me, trying to snuggle.
Evie has discovered that it's fun to be a ham!
Crazy eyes!
A cute grin that shows off all 8 of her teeth!
A perfect symbol of the brightness of Evie's spirit.
Rocking out in the rocking chair.
She looks so much like her Daddy!
Evie has discovered her toes, and likes to hold onto them.
Giving us a lecture on the adorable nature of little girls.
She was standing next to the block, and suddenly decided to climb on top!
The next couple of pictures are from before Todd and I were engaged, and he met my family for the first time when we all went to the University of Utah Natural History Museum. I have no idea why they had a giant frog, but we had fun with it, and it makes the last picture of Evie that much cuter!
I kiss the frog...
...and *Poof!* he turns into a handsome prince!
And a couple of years later, we have a cute little frog baby!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Evie!

My baby girl turned one year old on Wednesday, March 21st! Because she shares a birthday with her older cousin Kevin and he had family visiting from out of town, we threw Evie's party on the Saturday before, which turned out to be St. Patrick's Day. I've had these pictures on the camera since then, but I misplaced the camera cord in the move, and couldn't upload them until my mom reminded me yesterday that the camera SIM card should plug directly into my computer...I feel so silly! But now I can finally blog about my baby's birthday party!
Ever since Evie was born, we've decorated her room with a jungle theme. Rather than break with tradition, I scoured the Internet for cute jungle birthday ideas. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I outright stole several ideas from this website. However, I did come up with some other ideas on my own, so I'm justifying to myself that it's not total plagiarism.
In keeping with the jungle theme, the tablecloth was green, and we taped green streamers all over the place to simulate vines while the balloons were supposed to bring tropical flowers to mind. It didn't turn out exactly the way I'd hoped, but we had people arriving while we were finishing everything up, so we did the best we could, and I think it was fine.  
We also used Evie's various jungle toys as decorations on the table: her beloved giraffe in the first picture, and her lion and a new giraffe in the second.
On the wall behind the table, I put up the following banner:
It's a little hard to read because of the glare, but it says Hip-"Hippo"-Ray for Evie's 1st Birthday!!!
I really poured my whole self into planning this party. All of the food was themed, and I spent hours shopping for materials and hand-making the banner, her birthday hat, and the food place-cards. The first thing I made when I woke up Saturday morning, was Evie's personal 6" cake. In an attempt at being clever, I bought two cake mixes, chocolate and yellow, and swirled them together in the pan so the cake would come out striped like a tiger. Once it was cool, I decorated it in the shape of a lion's head, because lions are Evie's favorite animals:
I had Evie "help" me decorate her cake, which means I put some frosting on one of the lids and let her go wild. The end product wasn't perfect, but I was trying to get everything done in a hurry, while also staving off a grouchy birthday girl who had run out of yummy frosting and wanted more NOW! I think it turned out pretty cute, all things considered. Evie was put down for a nap so she would be in a good mood when her guests arrived, and I threw myself back into work.
Next came the cupcakes for the guests. Todd and I had poured some of each of the remaining cake mixes into cute little zebra striped cups, and swirled each cupcake. I was originally planning on swirling the frosting too, but ran out of time. So I ended up just decorating half of them with yellow frosting, and the other half with chocolate. Then each cupcake had a Hershey's Hug placed on top, just to complete the stripy theme. I named them "Wild Cupcakes" and set them on the table.
Meanwhile, Todd was making my "Elephant Trunks"-- celery sticks filled with peanut butter. After all, elephants love peanuts! I was particularly proud of this idea (although I don't like celery OR peanut butter, and have no idea why anyone ever thought they should go together).
I hurried and poured our "Tiger Tails" (Cheetos puffs) and "Animal Crackers" (...animal crackers) into their respective bowls. The "Tiger Tails" bowl helped the puffs look "stripy."
The "Zebra Cakes" were a little tricky because the skewers kept poking completely through the cakes, but that was the only thing overall that I was disappointed in. Like the bowl for the "Tiger Tails," the cups with black rocks were supposed to look like zebra stripes.
People kept asking me if I'd made the Zebra Cakes myself. I was flattered, but no: they're snacks made by Little Debbie.
Then Todd helped me make my "Monkey Pudding," which consisted of layering banana pudding, sliced bananas, and whipped cream twice each into 9 oz cups before putting 'Nilla Wafers on top.
These were Todd's favorite food of the day, and I have to agree: they were really yummy!
Our last menu item was "Giraffe Juice." It was half pineapple soda and half ginger ale and was surprisingly delicious!
If I'd been any more of an overachiever, I would have frozen some dark liquid into ice cube trays so the drink would have looked more splotchy like a giraffe, but I couldn't think of anything that would have gone well with those flavors, and I'm glad I didn't try!
Once all of the food was done, I took a couple of last-minute pictures and then it was time to open presents!
Usually in Todd's family, we have food first and then open presents, but we didn't want Evie to get her new things all sticky after eating her cake, so we switched the order of events.
Evie wasn't thrilled about wearing the birthday hat that I made for her, and Todd said he kept thinking of it as a dunce cap. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the elastic cord came undone before she was able to actually open any of her presents. (Just to alleviate confusion, the date-stamped pictures are from my camera, but since I have lots of sun-glare in my pictures, I'm also using ones that my father-in-law took.)
The first couple of presents that she opened were the Noah's Ark and additional animals that I'd ordered for her. They were even cuter in person, and Evie seemed pleased by them.
Up next were a couple of packages from Tia and Uncle (Todd's sister Jenette, and her husband, Greg). The first contained a fuzzy yellow duck holding a fuzzy yellow blanket. Evie loved it! Before any of us could get a picture, she swooped in and gave the duck a kiss on the head! It was so cute, and I'm sad I didn't get a picture or video of it.
The second package contained a couple more lift-the-flap books. Evie thought they were okay, but she really wanted to know where her new duck was!
Evie's last couple of gift bags were from her Uncle John/Aunt Margot and their kids. She's really getting good at "working" gift bags, and she had no trouble pulling out her present, revealing...
Elmo sippy cups! I know that I've mentioned on multiple occasions that I HATE Elmo! And I told all of our family and friends well before Evie was born that we were not going to welcome anything Elmo into our little family. I'm a little relieved that Evie doesn't seem happy about them, either, in the above picture.
However, I tried to be polite and didn't react at all to the sippy cups, except that I apparently stopped taking pictures. Instead, I sat quietly and waited to see what was in the last bag.
 Imagine my horror when it turned out to be a little plush Elmo!
In fact, I whipped around and came face-to-face with a wickedly grinning John. It turns out that he went into the store and headed straight for the Elmo stuff. I'm getting the last laugh, though, because the stuffed Elmo stays upstairs where the other grandkid toys live, so Evie doesn't really have a strong emotional attachment to it. In fact, I plan to "accidentally" leave him here when we move out. And she'll be done using the sippy cups before she's old enough to recognize and want him. Ha ha! Ha ha!
After all of the presents had been opened, I lit the candle on Evie's cake and brought it in to her while we all sang "Happy Birthday." 
Daddy helped her blow out her candle, and then everyone cheered.
All of the noise scared her, so after Daddy and the new ducky helped calm her down, we stripped her down to her diaper and let her dig in to her cake.
Evie is such a ladylike little girl, so instead of destroying her cake like most other babies I've seen, she used her forefingers and thumbs to very daintily pick up pinches of frosting and put them into her mouth. Todd finally showed her where a piece of cake had sheared off from the rest, and she started burrowing into the cake itself, all the while leaving the picture on top alone. Meanwhile, everyone else ate and talked. Overall, the food seemed to be a success!
After everyone else left to go home, Todd pulled out his present for Evie: three new rubber duckies! He got her a pink one, a green one, and a purple one wearing a birthday hat and holding a birthday cake. Since she was messy (although not as messy as I'd expected, actually), we thought it would be fun to give her a bath and let her play with her new duckies. I took a few last pictures of her frosting-bearded face, and then took her into the bathroom, where Todd had the water ready.
 Evie loved those duckies! She hugged them and chased them all over the tub:
While Todd dried her off and dressed her, I snuck back out to the living room so I could start taking her Noah's Ark animals out of the packaging. Well before I was even close to done (whoever packages those little critters has a sadistic personality!) Evie came crawling over at top speed and grabbed the ones that I'd already managed to extricate. She promptly started playing with them, and I whipped the camera out and got a quick and fuzzy shot.
I think, all in all, she had a pretty great day. I was really pleased with how all of the food and decorations turned out, and I'm happy that Evie really loves playing with her Noah's Ark. Her duckies are part of every bath, but we've started an end-of-bath tradition where we squeeze all of the water out of them and she kisses them bye-bye.
Honestly, I'm also a little relieved that I don't have to throw another themed birthday party for at least another year!

For those crafty people out there who might care, I have a list of where I bought everything. I had a $100 budget for Evie's birthday, including presents, and I pulled it off--it can be done!

Hobby Lobby:
Felt place-mats
Giraffe paper used for banner, hat, and place-cards*
Leopard napkins
Zebra plates
Zebra cupcake cups
Black rocks
Elastic cord for hat

6" cake pan
"Giraffe Juice" pitcher
Most, if not all, of the food
Rubber duckies
Little giraffe

Dollar Tree:
"Tiger Tails" bowl
"Zebra Cakes" cups 
Tissue paper on cups, pitcher, and spoons
Wrapping paper on Evie's presents

King Soopers (local grocery store):
9 oz cups
Whatever food we didn't get at Wal-Mart

Babies "R" Us:
Little People Noah's Ark
Additional animals

I've had the "Animal Crackers" bowl and the platter for the cupcakes and "Elephant Trunks" for a long time.
*The font I used on the banner/place-cards is called "Matisse."